Literary Review: W. A. Harbinson - Iconic Voices
W. A. Harbinson's first new novel - fictionalised non-fiction, as the author correctly describes it - since 2002, Iconic Voices, published this August, comes as a pleasant, refreshing surprise. On the one hand, because it is the author's first new work of fiction, or more precisely, fictionalised non-fiction, in almost a dozen years. On the other hand, there is its original format that proves such a delight.
To elaborate, Harbinson uses biographical and autobiographical source material - non-fiction - and then works this into a series of first person narrative accounts, factually accurate, of the subjects' lives, narrated as if they are recalling the stories of their lives in the afterlife - this is where the work becomes fiction. (Although, on the point of recollection from the afterlife, one might perhaps argue that this, given the context painted by the author, sounds more like the recollections and experiences of people in their dying moments, corresponding closely to the accounts of people who underwent 'near death' experiences as well as from what may be gleaned from the biochemical processes taking place in the brain during death and 'near death.' Indeed, Harbinson's descriptions here seem remarkably accurate in relation to what is known of these. However, this is a minor by-the-by really.)
The subjects of Iconic Voices are no lesser figures than five of the most iconic personalities from the creative sphere of the twentieth century. Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando, Norman Mailer, John Lennon, and Andy Warhol, no less! Five people whose lives were intriguingly and intricately interconnected and all of who are dead in reality as well, of course.
Thus, the title of Iconic Voices could hardly be more apt, and moreover, its subjects, these five great twentieth century icons, could hardly be more sensational and intriguing.
Harbinson has allocated each of these icons a separate chapter and through each person's narrative lays bare their interconnection with one or more of the others. His great story-telling ability is as captivating as ever and turns dry biographical material into riveting stories that expose the character of the subject as well as their life-history to the fullest yet in a condensed form that focuses on the essentials. In doing so, Harbinson brings each character vividly to life, in death, as it were.
Of course, be prepared for a fair amount of unpleasantness, and some concentrated laying bare of extreme neuroses. After all, genii though these five personalities may each have been in their own way, perfect human beings they were not, and pleasant they were not, at least to a large degree. But Harbinson manages to balance this with a good dose of humour along the way also.
W. A. Harbinson's Iconic Voices is highly entertaining as well as informative and revealing, and once again affirms Harbinson as one of the finest writers of our time. It is a great pity that the 'literary establishment' largely seems to have failed to wake up to this yet.
Iconic Voices is impossible to put down, and once finished I felt compelled to immediately start it over again. It is a fascinating work in a fascinating format about five fascinating people.
Innovatively, Iconic Voices is also available as five separate e-books of one chapter of the total work. Personally, I prefer the paperback. The physical book. Any day. But, whatever form you might prefer, just get this compulsive reading!
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