A novel by Daniel Davis Wood
Before dawn one day in midwinter, a man in flight from a crisis returns to a city he lived in long ago. He has lost everything — his home, his security, his sense of self — and now he sets off on foot through the streets as he prepares to knock on the door of an old friend, to swallow his pride and ask for a place to stay. But something unnameable interferes with his plans. He takes a turn around a corner. Then he turns again, and again, and again. He wanders off on tangents, re-crosses paths he has already followed, and moves in ever expanding circles, aimlessly pivoting around an invisible centre. He hesitates. He prevaricates. He can’t walk towards the shame of doing what he must. He stops, lingers, tarries. He touches the surfaces of the city, opens himself to its tones and textures. He delves into the past, his own past and the past of the place, bringing to mind his bygone encounters with life on the edge of solvency. His is a record of borderline squalor, of exploitation, of begging to maintain the status of even a precarious existence; a history of minor humiliations, of frustrated ambitions, of friendships with the marginalised and kinship with the dispossessed.
In his follow-up to the novella Unspeakable, Daniel Davis Wood embarks on a psychogeography of Edinburgh which takes form as a dance between movement and stasis, exhaustion and relief, otherness and selfhood. Part prose poem, part autofiction, In Ruins strings a series of minor narratives along the coiling, looping pathways of an itinerant mind, a lost soul. The result is a story that purposefully goes nowhere — a story that in fact revels in its refusal to conclude, using words to postpone an imminent return to a reality both alienating and utterly without pity.
Daniel Davis Wood is a novelist and essayist based in the Scottish Borders. His début novel, Blood and Bone, was published in 2014 and won the Viva La Novella Prize in his native Australia, and was followed by the novella Unspeakable. He is also the author of a monograph, Frontier Justice in the Novels of James Fenimore Cooper and Cormac McCarthy, and a fourth novel, At the Edge of the Solid World, published by Brio Books in 2020.