Jonathan Buckley's latest novel, Live; live; live, is a story about the occult as a source of psychological and existential truth. Lucas Judd is a man with a gift: He hears the dead speaking. Joshua lives next door, just a boy when he first meets his mysterious, kind neighbor. But as he grows up, his instructive friendship with Lucas is gradually altered by desire: Joshua's attraction to, then obsession with Erin, the much younger woman with whom Lucas lives. The nature of her relationship to Lucas is unclear and unclassifiable: Is it erotic, platonic, pedagogical? And is Lucas a sham or a kind of shaman? Is Joshua really a reliable witness? At the heart of this novel are timely questions about narrative truth and timeless questions about life, death, and belief. There are no certainties in Live; live; live, only mutability, permeability, and the beautifully observed cadence of change.
Live; live; live might a very subtle and low-key book, it’s a beautifully poised novel about mysteries both eternal and mundane ... The understated, though always elegant prose, gives the final pages of the novel a chilling, even dangerous edge as our attention shifts to Joshua, as we begin to doubt his motivations toward Erin. As with the ambiguity encircling Judd, though, questions remain unanswered. While this lack of a clear resolution may frustrate some readers, to again borrow John Mitchinson’s words, Live; live; live is a very grown-up novel.
... blurring and reimagining our transcendent experiences is at the center of the English novelist Jonathan Buckley’s new novel Live; live; live ... The novel [...] is a layered history of misremembering, charting the lifelong friendship between Joshua and the medium Lucas Judd ... Live; live; live is an autumnal, straitened work ... a cindered linguistic husk — the novel’s contemplative prose can feel almost timorous at times, obsessing over minor dramas and episodes. Buckley’s protagonists are typically dry functionaries, their lives and observations proceeding along the grooves of an implicit procedurality — urgency is intentionally muted, no sense of time dilating or contracting in the midst of emergency ... Hesitation and hedging extend Buckley’s sentences, disclosing a latent insecurity — events in Live; live; live unfold in a languorous spiral ... For all his interest in the baroque, Buckley is at his best when he’s writing simply; his quietest descriptions carry the most weight ... When it allows itself a lightness of touch, Live; live; live is a startling book.
A young man recounts his years-long friendship with a medium in this cerebral slow burn from Buckley ... Some of the developments come out of nowhere [...] but Buckley stokes a quiet intensity around the characters’ subtle, understated communication. While intriguing, this experiment feels a bit flat.