the last Viriconium story
Strictly speaking, “A Young Man’s Journey to Viriconium”, with its demented hedge magicians and their puzzled late-modern ephebe, is the last Viriconium story, in that it gives to the series what might be laughingly referred to as closure. But now there is this other item, which is the last Viriconium story in another sense, written 30 years after the fact just to see what I’d produce in late style–to see what this burned-out other me, affect flattened by age, voice bleached out to the faint, destroyed tones of Dr Petromax, expectations drastically lowered and genuinely de-romanticised, would make of the typical Viriconian material–but perhaps more importantly, of himself. Well, it’s done, it’s the customary four or five thousand words and it will be available to view, more or less soon, depending on the vagaries of the publishing industry. And it’s good, in that it’s odd, it unearthed plenty of stuff and it isn’t too badly written. So: result. But in the end what it makes me think about most is how an individual’s lifetime identity, personality and emotional history can be determined by early reading. I am not talking here about “influence”, on a “writer” but about the formative years of a person. I read LP Hartley’s The Go Between in 1963 or 1964: watching Jim Broadbent and Jack Hollington play Leo in the recent BBC version, I now see that my life was almost as wrenched by the book’s emotional demands as Leo’s is by his encounter with Marian. Hartley was so desperate to get over his warning–and as a reader I was so desperate to signal to him that I’d understood it–that I took it on and acted upon it the way Leo never could. Reading can induce, or encourage, such vast parallax errors. I feel now that parts of my life have probably been a disaster as a result of learning too well the lesson Leo doesn’t seem to learn at all. Other books that formed or wrenched me in other ways: The Flight From the Enchanter, Iris Murdoch; Pincher Martin, William Golding; A Fine Madness, Elliott Baker; Mooncranker’s Gift, Barry Unsworth; Love for Lydia, HE Bates. I’m sure there are fifty others. Please don’t go away and use these authors to “interpret” what I write. You would have to have known me very well for a generation or two for that act of divination to have any force at all. And–again as a result of my formative reading–I can, sadly, be certain that you haven’t.
I’m not interested in “interpretation” but I am always interested in learning what you have been or are interested in. And I do enjoy your book reviews in the Guardian. Fanx.
Mike, I’ve been interpreting you for years using only the complete Hardy Boys and Ernst Jünger, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.
hi anzanhoshin, glad you enjoy them, I’m doing one this very minute.
Brendan: Maestro, you have stumbled on the only possible key that fits the lock. How do you *do* that?
It’s all I’ve ever read anyway.
A latter day Viriconium eh? Significant no matter what the subconscious process of its evolution. I have always loved the tangential aspects of Viriconium such as The Luck in the Head, which for me have come closest to capturing the resonance of English custom and folklore which is still being enacted today, often in revival form.
The last thing writing needs is another label so I hesitate to say this, but I have always thought that much of your work, along with Chris Priest’s, forms the spine of a sort of English magic-realism that reflects our (never to be fully grasped) connection with the landscape of this small island.
More importantly – in what format is the new work going to be available?
Hi Duke, longtime no hear.
Nice to see the connection of landscape, language & folklore being taken up again via Ben Wheatley’s films and Robert Macfarlane’s “eerie England” idea.
The new Viriconium story–which has a juicy bit of Downland folklore at its centre by the way–will be available as a short story in the new collection, which is finished & struggling its way through the publishing industry hoops. But there’s some chance it might also be available as a graphic collaboration. That’s a Sekrit Projeck at the moment, but news as & when.
brendan use chet
read ‘light’ at a point where i was struggling with addiction, walling myself off from the world: locked away in synthetic digital bullshit hobbies. decade plus later & the intensity, viscerality of its impact on how i saw (& tried to change) myself is still vivid.
I always thought it was about closure…for all of us hunting for Viriconuim. Love the idea of the secret graphic project….
I need to feed the V addiction – will I be able to get for midwinter festival?
Books that wrench… They change every day but some Fowles and Burgess always.
I save my old vconium stuff for when I am ill – which I also do with Sholokhov – strange that.
Every Vironocium story i’ve read felt like a final, definitive story to me.
Is this cycle your equivalent of Beethoven’s ninth? Every time you think it ends, it starts ending again.