I’m particularly thrilled to publish this as it’s been a labour of love for the last 18 years: a postmodern campus novel that explores the limits of love, literature and language in a dizzying, intellectual, comic, erotic clash of literary styles.
It’s experimental but, I hope, a lot of fun.
I started writing Train Can’t Bring Me Home while on a student exchange in Hungary in 1993. The Iron Curtain had just come down and I’d jumped at the chance to witness history up close, a society that had been frozen in time now beginning to thaw.
It was a time of extremes. While a bloody civil war was raging just over the border to the south, I found myself in the Hungarian campus town of Debrecen, escaping into love and literature with a group of students and exiles; a crazy spring semester falling in love with a town and its people and only making sense of it through the books we were all reading.
At the centre of the novel is Dylan, a washed up American lecturer with a Tom Waits fixation, who has an affair with Erzsi, his vivacious teenage Hungarian student, but their affair becomes an all-encompassing passion that transforms everyone around them and turns the entire town into a magical place.
It’s a novel about love but it’s also a novel about novels. It made sense to me to tell the story through the books that the characters were reading and obsessed with, so each chapter is written in a different style and sometimes random styles jump in and take over within chapters.
If you like straight narratives that don’t play literary games, Train Can’t Bring Me Home is probably not for you. But if you fancy the idea of a novel that flits from bad travel writing to music journalism to a relationship break-up written as a student essay, with an array of pastiches of literary greats like James Joyce, Martin Amis, BS Johnson, Italo Calvino, Milan Kundera, Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs, Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker, Vladimir Nabokov, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and more, then I think you’ll enjoy the games it plays.