August 2, 2010

Lee Rourke, the "Rising Star"

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The cover for Lee Rourke's The Canal

The cover for Lee Rourke's The Canal

Because new “discoveries” seem to us to be what publishing is all about, we take great pride at Melville House in the fact that some of our discoveries (Tao Lin, Hans Fallada) have really caught on.

Now, it appears our newest discovery — British writer Lee Rourke and his first novel The Canal — is catching fire as well.

And it’s not just us saying so. The Independent says it “has high ambitions and frequently – occasionally dazzlingly – reaches them,” making it “a refreshing, memorable and powerful novel.” GQ — yes, I said GQ — went way over the top, saying,

You have to salute Rourke – he has written a novel about boredom and how it saturates modernity, which is a ballsy thing to do. But The Canal also takes in urban renewal, technology and violence as it questions the manner in which we live our lives in the 21st century…. Authenticity may be in recession, but novels like this help us to recover our sense of it. If you fancy a cerebral summer read then make it The Canal. For a book about urban ennui it’s one hell of a page-turner.

Meanwhile, Rourke is the king of alternative media: 3AM calls it “one of the most achingly thought-provoking and beautiful books I’ve read recently … right-up-to-the-minute and urgent.” Largehearted Boy calls it “powerful” (and runs Rourke’s playlist), and HTML Giant calls it “a strange explosion of a book” (in addition to running an interview with Rourke). And Rourke has won the latest round of the Literary Death March in London, as the Guardian details here.

And that’s not the only contest Rourke is performing strongly in: the book is tracking so hot in the UK that Amazon.co.uk has featured Rourke in its “Rising Stars” program. They offer a free read of the first chapter, an interview with Rourke, and more, and place it alongside four other debut novels. From there it’s a simple affair: The book that ends up with the most positive reader reviews goes on to be considered for Debut of the Year.

Exciting stuff. It’s not often readers can so influence a writer’s beginning like this, nor have a chance to be heard over the din usually underway for books touted by the usual sources in the echo chamber. Want to help make a career? Go here and tell Amazon what you think of The Canal. And watch our Twitter feed — we’ll be giving out signed copies throughout August.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives

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