A Preparation for Death
It’s been over a month since I read Greg Baxter’s A Preparation for Death and I’ve spent the ensuing weeks not quite knowing what to say about it, in part because I know Baxter personally, and in part because I needed to let my thoughts about it settle in the immediate aftermath of turning the last page. At last night’s launch of the book in Waterstones, I was reminded of the power of Baxter’s work and the things that had stayed with me: the precision of his prose, the energy, the urgency, the egocentricity of his writing. Because Baxter can write – beautifully, eloquently, with both care and fervour. He is both in love with and despising of himself, and as such the Greg Baxter he writes into this book and in a sense out of himself, is an aggravating man. Irresponsible, insatiable, he finds his job demeaning but rather than leave it, takes the money and takes the piss. The women in his life are seen through a highly sexualised lens – few become the kind of whole and breathing characters afforded their male counterparts. Yet an irritation with the protagonist/author and his personal focus does not take away from the lucidity of Baxter’s writing, the achievement of this work and the undeniable pleasure to be gleaned from a book that disturbs your thoughts and thus makes you tackle them anew. In fact, if only for his portrait of a vibrant, pulsing, contemporary Dublin – a city that has not been captured thus, ragged and raucous, in any other book to date – A Preparation for Death is worth reading. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.