The Road to London
Well it’s not every book that opens with a poem drawn from Middle English, and not Geoffrey Chaucer either. This immediately tells the eager reviewer two things: one, this novel is likely to be a fabulous adventure; and second, that the writer doesn’t mind challenging the reader’s intelligence in a good way.
Indeed this novel is an adventure, with its goal being the narrator’s move from his birthplace near Milan to London in his twenty-sixth year. This adventure, though, is an internal one, exploring neither the Nile nor the Zambezi, but rather the unknown bends and rapid currents of growing into one’s self. It takes a brave man to set down on paper those thoughts and investigations that lead to a first discovery of dreams, goals and sexuality. For most of us, it is such an awkward time we prefer to pretend it all never happened, as though we were born and then grew overnight into our adult selves, like humanized Chia pets.
Most of all though, this remarkably literate book has hidden in its core a meditation on a divine triangle composed of three sides: the life dreamt, the life lived, and the poetry and art that influences and is influenced by both. Without dreams, there is no imagination. Without life, there is nothing to imagine. And without art, then what’s the reason for either of the other two? Hence Bulla introduces his chapters with poetry, and also often introduces a dream without an introduction so that one has to metaphorically step back a bit and think, ‘Wait. Is this real or not?’ The answer of course is that a dream is just as real as day-to-day life if one is in the moment of dreaming.
This is a brilliant short novel, just 153 pages, yet within it are endless hours of thought and time well-spent by the reader. Highly recommended.
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