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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Jim Crace

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To purchase Genesis

Title: Six
Author: Jim Crace
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003
Length: 246 pages
Availability: Genesis - US
Six - UK
Six - Canada
  • UK title: Six
  • US title: Genesis

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Our Assessment:

B+ : odd tale, but ultimately curiously seductive

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Daily Telegraph A 1/9/2003 Caroline Moore
The Guardian . 6/9/2003 D.J. Taylor
Independent on Sunday B- 7/9/2003 Glen Duncan
The LA Times . 9/11/2003 Heller McAlpin
New Statesman . 8/9/2003 Rachel Cusk
The NY Times . 13/11/2003 Janet Maslin
The NY Times Book Rev. C 23/11/2003 Anthony Quinn
The New Yorker D 22/12/2003 .
The Observer . 7/9/2003 Tim Adams
San Francisco Chronicle . 4/1/2004 Steven G. Kellman
The Spectator . 6/9/2003 Digby Durrant
Sunday Telegraph A 21/9/2003 Gerard Woodward
Sydney Morning Herald . 20/12/2003 Geordie Williamson
TLS . 5/9/2003 Benjamin Markovits

  Review Consensus:

  No consensus, with some quite disappointed (and mystified)

  From the Reviews:
  • "The brilliance of Crace's novel -- which offers deliberately discrete chapters, vignettes plucked from the current of a life -- lies in the tension between the polished-pebble perfection of his style and the awareness that what it attempts to pin down is constantly shifting, impermanent, unfinished." - Caroline Moore, Daily Telegraph

  • "Technically, Six is an odd mixture of obliquity and heavy emphasis. While the urban backdrops, with their hints of danger and unrest, are sketched in with the lightest of touches, much of the foregrounded psychology, though highly acute, looks over-explained. (...) Stylishly done, and full of well-concealed trickery, Six is like everything Crace has written: a glossy and elegant conceit but, in the end, not much more than that." - D.J. Taylor, The Guardian

  • "Six is, at best, a harmless novel that fails to realise the potential of its would-be conceit, and at worst, a handful of truisms. (...) Six will disappoint readers who want a plot. There isn't one. Instead Crace uses his city's large and public goings on -- a government crackdown on liberals, a flood, student activism -- in a series of self-contained narratives meant to throw the lovers' intimacies into relief. (...) As it is, Six is three or four decent short stories wrapped up in flannel." - Glen Duncan, Independent on Sunday

  • "There is, strikingly, no love. No familial love at least -- for a man like Felix, romantic love, sexual love, is the seat of all human drama and all human frailty. (...) All Crace's effects are saved for the end of the book when the children themselves start to speak, when their identities emerge from the shadowy fringes of Felix's consciousness. And the central preoccupation of this curious and finally affecting novel seems to be that a person can be made from each and all these couplings; that life is so robust and tenacious and yet so exquisitely refined in its detail, in the forms it takes." - Rachel Cusk, New Statesman

  • "(T)his is a paean to sexual possibility and everyday ardor as it follows Lix through the series of evocative liaisons that tell his story. (...) Genesis initially appears more audacious and inventive than it turns out to be." - Janet Maslin, The New York Times

  • "It gradually becomes clear that Crace's priority is not so much to tell a story as to explore the psychopathology of a driven man. (...) Genesis is a clenched and ponderous effort. There's no doubting Crace's powers of invention as a writer; it's just that inventiveness isn't necessarily a guarantee of interest." - Anthony Quinn, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Lix, an actor, is so virile that he impregnates every woman he beds; unfortunately, the story he inhabits is a sterile exercise. (...) Crace’s agenda, however, is to deglamorize the act of procreation, and to tutor his readers about the emotional dislocations that divide men and women even as their bodies conjoin." - The New Yorker

  • "Six is a book that asks to be read as a fable, though of what you are never quite sure. If nothing else, it makes a compelling, if somewhat unwitting case for safe sex." - Tim Adams, The Observer

  • "The bumbling God of Genesis is an accidental lover, a negligent father and a dubious everyman." - Steven G. Kellman, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "Although Lix's women (apart from the first) all have some tenuous connection with each other, the story is fragmentary, desultory, meandering. What draws the reader into this novel is not the tug of narrative but the ever-increasing intimacy one gains with Lix and the City of Kisses he inhabits, and the far-flung family of half-brothers and sisters he engenders. While somehow sharing the visceral, Darwinian bleakness of Crace's previous novels, Six is much lighter in tone, and lit more brightly." - Gerard Woodward, Sunday Telegraph

  • "Six is a fascinating book, and its central theme - the beauty and terror attendant to the creation of life -- perhaps forms a counterbalance to Crace's obsession with fatality in Being Dead." - Geordie Williamson, Sydney Morning Herald

  • "Lix is quite capable of unreproductive sex: all he needs is a condom. But he forgets, and the rather modest sum of five lovers and six children is the result. So what is the point of the conceit ? Crace does not, primarily, seem interested in Lix himself. (...) Lix never has the courage of his conceptions: he does not stake claims over any of his children. Jim Crace criticizes his diffidence but seems more charmed than otherwise by the chance encounters it leads him into. The city is the real hero." - Benjamin Markovits, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Six (re-titled Genesis for the American market) is told in six chapters, each describing the conception of one of the children of the main character, Lix (actually: Felix) Dern. Lix isn't exactly a baby-making machine, but one of the novel's conceits is that:

Fertile Lix had never slept with anyone without -- eventually -- a pregnancy.
       This isn't quite as sensational as it may sound in summary. Lix is no condom-bursting, contraception-defeating, ultra-fertile super lover. In fact, he's not really that impressive in bed, and there's even a seven year stretch when he goes without sex entirely. But chance and circumstance have it that the five women he's been with all, immediately or eventually, did get pregnant (one of them twice).
       The book begins roughly in the present, with chapter and foetus number six. Now it's his second wife, Mouetta, whom he has impregnated, and this first chapter describes the events specifically of that night -- their anniversary, as it happens, though not one that went exactly the way he would have liked. After that, the book returns to the beginning, describing in order the earlier loves and pregnancies. The slightly roundabout approach is fairly successful: the first chapter suggests some of the incidents from the past (such as that Lix has a twenty-four year old son with Mouetta's cousin, Freda), but only slowly revealing in the later chapters what Lix has gone through.
       Crace sets an atmospheric scene. The setting is a fictional country, and it undergoes several transitions over the course of the book -- one of the Baltic states, from Soviet through various post-Soviet times, one imagines. In the present it is again in turmoil, with considerable political unrest and a moderately violent police crackdown (intrusive enough that it prevents Lix and his wife from getting home on their anniversary night).
       Much of the appeal of the novel comes from this slightly ominous and indefinable background setting. The country is of little significance, trying constantly to reinvent itself but failing miserably. The city where Lix lives is known as 'the City of Kisses', a failed attempt to replace: "the more alluring, truer title given us by Rousseau, the City of Balconies." (Later there is a hilarious attempt to market the city "for a month or so as the City of Mathematical Truth, the Capital of Calendar Authenticity", the one place where the millennium is observed (correctly) in 2001, as opposed to 2000, as happened everywhere else in the world. It is a huge flop, of course.)
       From the Habit Bar to Deliverance Park, where Lix and his wife wind up on the night described in the first chapter, Crace nicely evokes a place of striking noramlity, yet with threatening undertones. Lix, a well-known actor by now, is in no danger in the current time of unrest, but Freda is taken into custody (though this is also seen as little more than an inconvenience). But Lix also does his best to remain uninvolved, readily betraying someone rather than put up with the inconvenience of helping when he is asked to.
       Lix went without sex for seven years, not for want of opportunity but because: "here was a man unable to yield himself". Crace writes: "mostly Lix did not engage at all", and that goes for both women and life in general. A rare moment when Lix seems to stand up against what is happening all around him comes with his first wife, Alicja. There is a "prolific and disrupting river" in the city, and one year there is an incredible flood, the water rising and rising and leading to mass evacuations. Lix and his wife do not flee, and when her father rows over to the half-submerged house to take them to safety they refuse to go with him -- but it is only Alicja who confronts her father, Lix cowering out of view, knowing that he would likely give in and let them be saved rather than remaining in this splendid isolation.
       The contrast between menacing government -- which only as a student Lix briefly considers challenging through actions of his own (though his reason is mainly to impress a woman) -- and the attempt to live a private life is also particularly successful.
       Six is Lix's story, told almost entirely in terms of his relationships with women and, to a lesser extent, his offspring (he's not an impressive father). The focus is on the times of greatest passion, as love begins or ends, the resulting sexual acts not always glorious but certainly transcendent. Lix isn't an impressive man, but Crace makes of him an impressive character, subtly but profoundly revealed in these limited slices from his life.
       There doesn't seem much story to the novel, and yet the scenes add up to considerably more than what they first seem. The writing is careful and subtle, seeming only to brush the surface but in fact ultimately offering considerable depth. Crace's almost off-hand style irritates at first, but the novel takes on solidity as it proceeds. It doesn't offer an initially satisfying beginning (or end), but leaves a surprisingly strong impression. We don't know Lix that much better by the end, but his experiences, and his successes and failures, continue to resonate after the final pages.
       An odd and occasionally frustrating novel, it is also curiously seductive. Patiet readers, willing not to make too great demands of the novel (i.e. willing not to impose their own expectations of how the novel should move along or that certain things must happen) will probably be pleasantly surprised.

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Six: Reviews: Jim Crace: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction

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About the Author:

       Award-winning British author Jim Crace has written numerous novels.

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© 2004-2010 the complete review

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