Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

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The Governor of this Gang


Here are many of Garner’s données. The hyperintelligent, emotionally fragile man, and the woman who takes (by choice, vocation or default) the ministering role. The cutting between periods and not-quite-parallel, fraternal-twin stories. Nonsense rhymes and ritual language. Science and poetry. History and simultaneity. Culture and nature. The careful hammering out of a dish that can hold different ways of thinking, of being, and not shatter. Madness. Colin wandering Alderley Edge in his Oxford academic gown, like some great prelate of the grove.

We’d expect to see a good number of these in any book of Garner’s, I think. But here he seems more deliberately to be pointing to his previous books and asking for their reinterpretation in the light of this one. This isn’t just a sequel to the Alderley books; it’s a sequel to every book he’s written since. As he knaps away at the stone that will reveal Boneland, their flakes and sparks shoot momentarily to light. Blue silver. Motorways and galaxies. A broken man as could mend. Engrams. “You really shouldn’t have done that.” Graffitti. Rhododendrons. Dimension stone. Boundaries are dangerous. Singing the land. There are flecks of other books, too. Golding’s The Inheritors is in there. Did I even see a glimmer of A Wizard of Earthsea? But mostly, of course, Gawain and the Green Knight, which is used really well and subtly, or my name’s not Bert.

The ending made me very sad, however.
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I was pleased to read this morning that he already knows what his next book will be. Boneland feels so final and I don't want that to be the case.

That's good to know. It did feel like a bit of a Finis on his whole oeuvre. (I seem to be leaking French today.)

The Grauniad profile gave a sense of him feeling he wouldn't have the time to complete it; still, as I recall the SFE2 either said there would be no more novels or no more after Strandloper.


I'm hoping for more Aidan Chambers, but I think he only did two novels that weren't part of the ?Dancers? series. He must be about the same age. (b. 1934. I see a couple of early novels and "Dying to Know You" (2012))


How did I miss that? OK...

Yes, they're very much of the same generation. Did you ever read Chambers' interview with Garner in Signal, about 1980? Well worth looking out, if not.

Dying to Know You sounds a little ominous.

It appears to be a Cyrano variant, with the replacement wooer being an elderly author.


I read the interview, I think in one of Chambers' collections (I like his nonfiction - and I quite agree with his c. 1994 assessment that there is no market for stories set in private schools). I'd sort of assumed he was also scholarship boy, but from the Wikipedia entry it might be he was secondary modern. I'd forgotten about the monk period. I wish I'd read them when I was the right age or younger; I seem to recall reading Breaktime's back cover, but was reading Patrick Moore at the time. And Arthur Ransome.


I don't think I even read any Garner - maybe a couple of the early ones were read to us. I'd always assume there was a Cooper-style series - I guess the box set was around.



Edited at 2012-08-31 02:27 pm (UTC)

I found it a joyful book - how was the ending sad, except in a good way? (Mind you, I do find the 'White Goddess' take on womankind becoming a little tiresome as it echoes down the decades: virgin, mother, crone isn't that much more subtle than madonna, whore. An excuse not to see.)

I so agree it's a sequel to everything he's written.

I love, love, loved all the wordplay - I loved the whole book, even if it did irritate me in places. Reviewed on Steel Thistles yesterday.

Great review! I think we came at it from very much the same angle.

I'm not sure why it made me sad. It was partly no doubt the feeling that it was a valediction, which poliphilo assures me is not the case, but that's not the whole of it, and I'm going to have to think a while about what else was involved. The ending of Thursbitch, though almost as resounding in its finality, didn't affect me this way at all: in fact it was my favourite part of a much-loved book. This, I found obscurely upsetting. I think the answer may lie in me as much as in Boneland.

But yes, Garner's wordplay is second to none, as ever. A re-read is in order...

Coming late to this (for I wanted to read Boneland first) I also felt sad from it. Things were broken and repairs will not fix things and moving on won't, either and there is no glory in the ending.

Hmm ...

*adds to list*


"Essentially, the nine novels are all one work."


He seems to slide off many of the questions. But they're not great questions, mostly.

Thanks for the links - there's some very interesting stuff between the slidings (signs amid the tangents, as Colin would perhaps put it).

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