With a Zero at its Heart by Charles Lambert

with a zero at its heart charles lambertWith a Zero at its Heart is a book with 24 themed chapters, each with 10 numbered paragraphs of 120 words each. This might sound like a gimmick, but it didn’t read that way.

Each chapter tells the life of the narrator through its theme, like ‘cinema or what the centaur meant’, ‘money or brown sauce sandwiches’, and ‘language or death and cucumbers’. Each paragraph is one memory, one fragment of something from his life; the first paragraphs are earlier in his life and then they move towards his present. As you read, the broader stories become more apparent – about dealing with his parents’ death, writing, and growing up and finding himself and his sexuality. It’s quiet, and fragmented, but the feelings are whole and strong. It’s tender, melancholy and playful all at once.

You could read this book in one sitting, but I didn’t. I think it needs to be read slowly, in the way you would read a short story collection or poetry. It needs space to breathe and to allow the fragments to settle and the whole to emerge. I’ve only read it once so far, but I think it’s one of those books where there’ll always be new things to discover when you go back to it.

The writing is absolutely beautiful; understated in the best way. It’s full of little true things and punch-the-air-yes phrases and imagery. I hadn’t even heard of Lambert before this came along, but I will definitely be checking out his other work if this is the way he writes (any suggestions of where to start are welcome!).

I’ve got no idea if this is fiction, non-fiction, or a bit of both (I’m guessing both), but it doesn’t matter really. One of the best books I’ve read this year (so good, I nominated it for the Not The Booker before I’d even finished it).

I won a free copy from The Friday Project with no expectation of review. It came signed, eep!

zero at its heart signed

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5 Responses to With a Zero at its Heart by Charles Lambert

  1. Pingback: July Reads | mischief and miscellany

  2. Pingback: With a Zero at its Heart: update | CHARLES LAMBERT

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