Toccata & Rain

Fremantle Press, 2004

Shortlisted for:

  • 2004 ALS Gold Medal
  • 2004 WA Premier’s Prize for Fiction

Simon reluctantly finds himself at the centre of a controversy over two large sculptural spires he has constructed in his suburban backyard in Melbourne. A television interview results in a late-night phone call from a wife in Perth, of whom he has no recollection. Suddenly Simon is plunged into a psychological maelstrom that has at its centre a childhood trauma so horrific in its consequences, he gradually realises that he has been trying to escape from it all his life. Compelling, mysterious and erotically charged, Toccata slowly peels back the layers, ambiguities and complexities of one mans life. The result is a startling virtuoso performance. 

Philip says Toccata & Rain …”is an experiment in fusion or hybrid structure, what I call a toccata and fugue, as against inventions of linguistics or syntax. It combines prose in brief chapters, narrated in third-person, with sonnets and ghazal-like poems in first-person, which stand in for / as the utterances and perceptions of the main character. The novel is the confused last few years of a man who has suffered a dissociative disorder – once called a fugue state amnesia… a man who has flown from one life into an assumed ‘other’, then fallen, as it were, back into his original self. The novel traces his attempts to make sense of who he is and what he has lived while in the fugue self, a self largely hidden from conscious awareness but (possibly) recoverable through hypnosis.”

Praise for Toccata & Rain

The phasmagoria of disintegrated personality are one of the perennials of literature and cinema. Reading this book, you are put in mind not only of films such as David Lynch’s Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive or Bergman’s Persona or Hitchcock’s Vertigo, but all the bizarre and fascinating characters who have populated European writing since the 19th century: Heathcliffe and Kathy, Miss Haversham and Bradley Headstone, half the people in Dostoevsky.

The Age 

While Simon builds his way to fame. Salom gradually writes his. I prophesy he is to meet the same fate as other successful poets-cum-novelists like Peter Goldsworthy, Randolph Stow or Christopher Koch. With Salom’s touch of the pen our sensibility is touched (toccata, we would say in Italian). This novelist is bound to go ‘down to fame’ as Alexander Pope has it.

Jean-Francois Vernay, JAS Review of Books

The strengths of Toccata and Rain lie in the evocation and embodiment of a life disrupted by early crisis; in the unusual rendering of an uncommon psychiatric condition; in the linguistic pleasures of Salom’s poetry.

Overall, the novel has a polyphonic, contrapuntal feel, obsessively enunciating and developing a limited number of themes through a restricted range of different voices and alternative points of view, as if its texture and structure are intended as a verbal mirror of the amnesiac’s clouded experience and intentions.

Paul Hetherington, ABR

A powerful narrative about memory and desire, Toccata and Rain slowly peels back the layers, ambiguities and complexities of one man’s life. The result is a startling virtuoso performance, a novel of great depth and power that holds the reader’s attention at every turn.

Australian Public Intellectual Network

This odd, clever story deals with ‘holes in the whole’. Salom’s novel introduces us to an obsessive man who is constructing two enormous, ornamented towers in his Melbourne back yard. Smashing plates to cement between the struts, he hopes, however obvious the reference to make ‘a tower going up like a plane crashed nose-down’. Certainly this novel depends on conveying the erratic, fragmented ways in which we may regain knowledge of past events.

Mark Thomas, Canberra Times

Toccata & Rain is no longer available from the original publisher, but until final stocks run out, collectors in Australia can still purchase it at low cost from this website.