Reviewing a book as erudite and as confident as this is in many ways a challenge, as Nicole Cushing’s ambitious work demands to be judged by the highest standards. A Sick Gray Laugh is very firmly in one of the oldest of the traditions of the novel. Playful, clever, at times spellbinding and always brave, the narrative is in the style mastered by Lawrence Sterne in the eighteenth century in his astonishing work The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. We are, very early on, introduced to the character of “the writer”, Noelle Cashman. We are posed various questions and challenges from the very start, and we are firmly patronised, though always with wit and charm, when our frustration or fascination are anticipated: “These are entirely reasonable questions,” writes “Cashman”, “Be patient. All shall be revealed.”

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