If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things is British writer Jon McGregor‘s first novel, which was first published in 2002. It portrays a day in the life of a suburban British street, with the plot alternately following the lives of the street’s various inhabitants. All but one person’s viewpoint is described in the third person, and the narrative uses a flowing grammatical style which mimics their thought processes.
A chain of quotidian scenes are framed in frozen stillness, Polaroid-like, assembling tiny details of anonymous and seemingly disconnected lives to create the disparate mosaic of any given neighbourhood in a city of Northern England. Twins playing cricket on the street, a little girl chasing angels, college students moving out and facing uncertain futures, an elderly couple about to celebrate their wedding anniversary, young and not so young lovers giving free reign to passion on a humid evening, an introvert boy who collects all sort of useless objects, a father whose blotched hands can’t feel the texture of his daughter’s hair. Lives rekindled, burnt and extinguished in absolute otherness, glittering with the vertigo of banality and transcendence, ignored by the indifferent eye deeply anchored to self-absortion.
The book’s title is drawn from a speech near the end of the novel, when the man with the scarred hands tells his daughter about the world. He tells her that “this is a very big world and there are many many things you could miss if you are not careful. He says there are remarkable things all the time, right in front of us . . . . He says if nobody speaks of remarkable things, how can they be called remarkable?”