Published: Lightning Books (January 2019)
A found novel
LONGLISTED: OCKHAM NEW ZEALAND BOOK AWARDS
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF 2017 BY RADIO NEW ZEALAND
From the author of the acclaimed The Wish Child comes something unexpected and fearless: a found novel. The Beat of the Pendulum is the result of one year in which Chidgey drew upon the language she encountered on a daily basis, such as news stories, radio broadcasts, emails, social media, street signs, TV, and many conversations.
As she filters and shapes the linguistic chaos of her recordings, different characters emerge – her family, including her young daughter, and her husband, mother and sister, her friends, and an extended family formed through surrogacy and donation.
In her chronicling of moments of loveliness, strangeness, comedy and poetry and sorrow, Chidgey plays with the nature of time and its passing. The Beat of the Pendulum is also an exploration of human memory – how we acquire it, and how we lose it.
This bravely experimental and immersive work draws us into the detail, reverberation and transience of a year in a life.
OUT 1 JANUARY 2019. AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER NOW
[ JANUARY ]
I think your door is open.
People sometimes hear something but they don’t hear it correctly. How’s wee darling? Did she see the New Year in?
No no no, gentle gentle gentle with the pearls.
Is he playing hard to get? You won’t catch him. He’s stupid but he’s not that stupid. Shall we put you in the chair?
She looks at everything. I don’t know how she looks so long without blinking.
She’ll knock that off there. That’s not going to stay there. Try the other hand.
Some babies at that age really can’t eat. They can still just only have bottles. You’re a show-off aren’t you? Yes, you’re a big show-off. She’s keeping her eye on you, isn’t she? That shortbread was lovely. Did you make it? Oh. Well it just tasted like homemade. When you can buy things as nice as that—I presume you bought it—it’s hardly worth turning your oven on, is it?
So were there lots of admirers talking about the baby paraded at lunch the other day?
Oh yes—how old is she, what’s her name? Yes, they thought she was beautiful. They all like to see something like that, because you know . . .
That was a nice guy at your table, with Gwen. He said she’s got more hair than he does.
Yes he’s lovely. He’s got an artificial leg. He had his leg removed about three years ago. He’s good fun. Gwen’s quite a quiet lady. Les and I have lots of jokes and she joins in, you know. I have a feeling she didn’t have a happy marriage. She’s never quite said, but I think he went to the pub and football and left her alone quite a lot. We have a good table, Les and Gwen and me. There used to be another guy there, but I don’t know whether he’s died or gone upstairs or what’s happened to him but he’s not there, and nobody seems to know. And we’ve now got a lady there who doesn’t even get a joke.
She hasn’t done anything interesting for the last thirty-six hours or so.
Nana’s having a cup of tea. Stop laughing at Nana and eat your carrot. Tea’s so different just made in a cup, compared to sixty cups in a teapot.
Where’s my laptop? I’ll show you some photos Helen posted.
What’s she standing on?
It’s Charlie’s hoverboard.
In the news, a lot of them have been spontaneously combusting. They just burst into flames.
Because there’s videos of them all over the internet. Because of the batteries or something. And there’s videos of people veering out of control and then coming off horrendously. They’re back early from their holiday over there. The neighbours. They were meant to be away for four days and they’ve been away for two. Perhaps they’ll do the lawns. Careful . . . careful . . . gentle! Gentle! Take control of that hand, because it’ll get onto your hair or your pearls and the pearls will be all over the floor in seconds.
Do you want Nana’s pearls? You can’t have them yet. No. You’re supposed to sit down. Bend your knees. Bend your knees and sit down. You’re supposed to be just sitting down quietly. You don’t like me holding on to you, do you? Do you want to go on the floor? Do you want to go on the floor? I’m trying to think how old that is.
That? I thought it was your father’s.
Yes it was. And he came out from Ireland. It would be in the 1890s, before the turn of the century. I think about ’98. Of course Dad had no idea when he came out.
Well he didn’t know how old he was.
You can’t imagine somebody hardly going to school, can you.
Why do you have to go off getting into trouble? Always getting into trouble.
Have you got a problem? Daddy’s got a problem more like.
Rebel with a cause. Her toenails need doing too, Catherine.
They’re so tiny at that age, the toenails, aren’t they. I don’t really want to see her with only four toes. I used to hate cutting your nails.
No need to look worried. Trust me, I’m a professional.
What’s Mummy doing?
‘For those who love books, Catherine Chidgey is a find’
‘A wonderful new talent’
‘The Beat of the Pendulum is an important and deeply imaginative novel. Chidgey experiments with and opens up new structural territory for what contemporary fiction might be. Readers should be prepared to be challenged; equally, they should be prepared to be thrilled’
‘An interesting literary exercise, not entirely relaxing, fascinating and interesting, but also one of those books that gives you an ‘in’ into a literary circle. Enormously pleasurable’
‘This then, is a close-up view of Catherine Chidgey’s private life, word for word, the minutiae, the nitty-gritty. It’s an account so ‘uncensored’ that we go with her to her cervical smear test and read the fabulous line, ‘Just parting your labia now’... We hear her jokes, her wry, comical misanthropy, her warmth and kindness, her extraordinary patience with her mother.... Nothing wild or extreme happens and yet, with a great degree of wit, inventiveness and lightness of touch, she keeps us engaged, keeps us following...’
‘The Beat of the Pendulum pushes against our notions of form, shape, and shaping. This book interrogates the limits of what a novel can be. Chidgey encourages us to consider how our lives, unvarnished, are story-like: inviting, moving, sweet, sad. In accumulating the moments of her life, Chidgey reveals a deeper story, a story that speaks to all of us’
Maggie Trapp, New Zealand Books
‘Often extremely moving, frequently funny, it also reads as the most intimate autobiographical exposure in New Zealand literature’
Read an interview with Catherine Chidgey in Stuff magazine