Spent days trapped in a world where words are alive. Four to the beat, smashing symbols. Thousands of characters born into an idea. An alchemy of the beautiful, the lost, confused and nasty finding some way to gel, to become real. In starting this book, one might think it is full of typos. My mind was glitching, electronic aspic playing tricks in the formatting. A few quizzical frowns later it hit me. Once attuned to the author’s rhythm something wonderful happens. Extraordinary notes fall beats between words missing, then discovered with stealth ear, the ampersand as proper noun. Well it was once held in high esteem, brutally taken away from the alphabet and now the ultimate character in this extraordinary piece of art.
When one smiles two pages in, you kinda know you gonna dig the beast ahead. The power of language, ideas and worlds that smash into your own and form our illusions of reality, our lives just one big novel filled with a ‘remix of superstition, fear, confusion and hearsay’ Sharing his life of information -duration spent in fresh air with a good dose of cathode input – Dean shapes and spits antecedent memory, breathing inside our disjointed fragments. This book is its own attempt to understand itself.
The narrator comes alive. A big buttinski that appears like the hand of god, her finger pointing in his ribs. The prose moves in and out of its own subconscious, or just loses its train of thought, bored, goes for a smoke, who knows. But it does regroup and old friends come back to haunt me. It triggers again and again inside an ether filled handkerchief. Biblical re treatments, fantastical celebs make guest appearances, a mishmash of identities as philosophical theorems get a workover in a post post-modern cut up that makes perfectly feasible nonsense, controlling theories of our chaotic magick awakening. ‘She’s placing wagers on Ouija boards again, speculating on the outcome of man made disasters body count and collective trauma’ these moments hold you in your tracks, his opals of unmined walls.
A psychick doll of stories taking great swipes at the self-promoting super sceptics. Could this be a book without a point? Each page gets more farfetched, crazy ideas spiral out of control. Words that you will only see in deep search for synonyms appear like cities from a power beyond. Pages and pages of extreme depravity, word wizard pushing his own limits, knocking off lists of despicable acts, degenerate visions that would make the horror gods tear up their manuscripts or push wads of money down his breeks because their minds couldn’t match the scenes pulled out. You keep reading, trusting in the author, that it will all make sense and if it doesn’t you will be seduced by the information dumps. You will definitely get a good chuckle out of it, maybe even help one dig out of their stagnant mind-well. The detective work is done by the reader, a chart where everyone takes their own route.
Fusing novel with essay, with dream, with review, with stories, when Ampersand enters the chapters all hell breaks loose. It switches from hard boiled in a blink. I adore when he goes noir on our asses, the cigarette smoke and sweet tea scenarios drift through the senses. This is more than one event it is a line of binary in parallel universes triggering mind hops and tangents for the dimensionally jarred. Always struggling to join the dots, chastised and tormented. Puns, rhyming slang, sayings, the dance of language rolls through the words, a manic, Tourette stylee. A rapid fire white patois rap of inner monologue gets quite scary in that it won’t stop. The ability of letters to transform into accents, missing letters become ghost limbs, all is understood, phonetics are a secret language. Will he achieve all he set out t say, *errrr grimace and spasm* I reckon he does, though many will run out of cuticle from scratching their heads. I found it intelligent, exciting, sexy, violent and inspiring. One can only adore the chaos, the tricks to reveal his truth.
Get your mirrors out cause he really loses it. This book is physically draining, a tongue workout while you chase the author round the white space expecting him to shed his straightjacket at any time. Totally fucking wild. Unedited word tanties, god I love this book’s total gaga gobbledegook cut and paste brilliance. Though at times, wading through the mess has you drooling on your desk. I feel you experience the ride more empathising with the author himself and the struggle it can be at times to get the story out of your head and onto the page. Some paragraphs feel they have been written after eating a bad curry. Dean Cavanagh has an unlimited supply of different ways of communicating wavelengths and if you can’t keep up then this book will leave you at the bakery, a snappy ride, where-to-next finger clicks. My only advice is to open your mind and hold onto the hand that is dragging you into this.
A friend leaned into my kindle
“it looks like word art”
“Yep it is”
“lots of swearing in it too”
“Yep there is”
I’ll leave you with an extract from a review written in 2026 with Dean Cavanagh who chats about his book, The Secret Life Of The Novel…
‘I saw my relationship with the reader as a sort of sexual one. But now it seems more like a late-night conversation with really good friends, when the bullshit stops and the masks come off‘
We are the words not uttered.
You can grab a hard copy of The Secret Life Of The Novel via amazon, also available on less satisfying circuitry devices. Connect with Dean on twitter and Goodreads.