ON READING JOSH MALERMAN’S NOVEL “BIRD BOX” IN DIFFICULT DAYS

On 1 January 2019 I posted on this blog about Susanne Bier’s “Bird Box”, a film made in 2018 and based on Josh Malerman’s novel of that name from 2014. At the time I located the film, with its imaginary pandemic, within the post-apocalyptic genre and related it to José Saramago’s novel ‘Blindness’ (‘Ensaio sobre a Cegueira’).

What I did not anticipate was the uncanny premonitoriness of ‘Bird Box’: there was no way of knowing that in its content and tone it would anticipate things that would come to pass in 2020. Very recently I remembered the film and decided to see it again. Inevitably, in the time of the coronavirus the film had new reverberations. I then felt impelled to read Josh Malerman’s novel.

 

Malerman, in third person but viewing events through the prism of his protagonist, Malorie, narrates the course of a pandemic whose effects include the breakdown of habitual social and economic activity (‘the entire globe is shut in’ – 277), the collapse of mobility and the near-compulsory wearing of, if not masks, blindfolds. There are repeated references to the ‘new world’ (e.g. 226, 227) that has come into being, and to the sensation that people ‘will never be free again’ (358), that the era when folks ‘walked the streets freely’ (330) has gone for ever. Horrendous acts occur, yet at the end hope resurges though community and children and a possible refuge from the worst of the pandemic is adumbrated.

Those who found the film spellbinding are also likely to be hooked by the book. Indeed, in a sign that the subjects raised by ‘Bird Box’ are ongoing, a sequel, to be titled ‘Malorie’, will be published in July. This second novel has been announced by Josh Malerman in a conversation at:

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/bird-box-sequel-malorie-sandra-bullock-netflix-josh-malerman-a8832111.html

and we can be sure that this time round, the story told by Malerman will be read differently = for better or worse, and let us only hope for the better.

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Josh Malerman, ‘Bird Box’, Harper Voyager, 2014, 381 pp., ISBN 978-0-00-752990-2

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Note added 30 July 2020:

‘Malorie’, Josh Malerman’s sequel to ‘Bird Box’ was indeed published in July 2020. I have already read it and found it a worthy continuation. It did not disappoint, but it leaves loose ends to the point where I am convinced this can only imply a third volume, and thus for the moment I reserve comment as any speculative analogies or comparisons could prove totally wrong. Let us meanwhile see if a second film materialises!

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