“There are few more transfixing vistas than being entitled to a vision of a glassy, membrane-clustered city of racing, pivotal electricity trembling in a white glister of night – a voyage of candles blurring the boundary between occupation and a desert of dark. Scotland, it must be qualified, is no Tokyo; low to the latitude of the land, even sheep here glow like lanterns, and the contrived plot of streets courses through the still, stark narrative of wine-green haze, emitting light but little clarity…”
Thus is setting of the wild and enthralling first stand-alone novel from Australian writer, Kirk Marshall, who offers a swirling symphonie fantastique in a mind-bending tale set in the rugged vistas of Scotland. The Signatory is a playful zoomorphist ruse that blusters and dallies with the mad antics of a strange English dilettante, Sebastian Sackworth, surrounded by a preposterous cast of characters that challenge all notion of archetype. Rich with symbolism, wit and double entendre, it is at times reminiscent of the nonsense literature of Lewis Carroll et al – and yet displaying a vanguardist penchant for hieroglyphic language and poetic diatribe. There are also elements of surrealist fiction and the Borges/Calvino labyrinthine to be had as Marshall’s polyglot mind and gymnastic vocabulary make this a novel to be savoured in miniature bites as well as a monstrous whole. In his own capable words Marshall describes it as a “phantasmagoric comedy that offers readers a cautionary tale of Scotland, the Scotland of dislocated nightmare, of demented cryptozoology, and it signifies the closest result to an end product if César Aira and Charles Portis collaborated on the screenplay for Withnail & I.”
The story pits together a delightfully absurd dramatis personae that includes the main pairing of a misanthropic anthropologist and a lusty Italian ornithologist on a madcap search for a rare Red Swan, soon to be joined by an Icelandic recluse, a chimpanzee, a notorious pirate, and a would-be Nessie – but to name a few. Along the way, Marshall manages somehow to mix in odd polemics on public transport sex, the science of moats, and the mysterious Scottish landscape. These sections weave his mesmerising turn-of-phrase with a remarkable aptitude for philosophical exposition. The novel becomes a story of navigation in a country of unnavigable mystery – of finding identity in an alien lowlands with a history of breeding strange monsters. The madcap journey and the ornithological prize takes on grail-like significance as the reader learns to erect moats of possibility in order to reach it.
Kirk Marshall has already caught the attention of the literary world, described as a “literary machine of redlining audacity” by A.S. Patric. Of the cygnet chasing Signatory Eric Yoshiaki Dando has written – “Kirk Marshall has plucked another beguiling and bristling tale from his beard of words. His writing is fiercely experimental with whimsical detours and stylistic roundabouts. Marshall works harder at the craft of writing than most people. He is a musketeer.” Jeremy Balius fittingly adds – “In an age of endless diaspora, The Signatory draws new spatial patterns of the sciences across the Scottish Lowlands. We’re all looking for our own red swan round here. This is fierce work composed by the heart of a luchador versus everything else. Kirk Marshall is the real deal.”
Skylight Press is proud to embrace this ‘real deal’ by publishing The Signatory, a captivating novella teeming with dream-like surprise. Fans of Absurdist and Bizarro fiction will be thrilled to hear this new, dynamic voice.
The Signatory is available from various retail outlets such as Amazon, Amazon UK, or direct from the Skylight Press website.