the m john harrison blog

Month: March, 2018

from the Ionic temple to the Chinese bridge

I’m not here much at the moment because I’m working, but stay around for news, reviews & announcements, one of which might be quite weird, details of gigs, etc. Meanwhile here’s a bit of the new novel–

They missed one another in the car park, and again at both lakes. For half an hour Victoria hiked about in the woodland. Every little hill or valley looked like an idea of itself developed from some barely-disguised digital framework. The paths, soft for the time of year, draped themselves along the contour from the Ionic temple to the Chinese bridge and thence to the Orangery.

There was no sign of Alice in any of these places. Neither was she to be found in the Jack Mytton Gallery, lost in thought among the silver toilet services, woodcuts of rolling winter plough and lively contemporary bronzes of hares with exaggerated ears; and when Victoria did track her down, it was to the centre of the rose garden, where she lounged at the edge of the rectangular pool with her shoes off, her feet wet and her legs stretched out in front of her, gazing with a broad dreamy smile on her face at a wall covered in blush pink centifolias into which some kind of exotic clematis had woven itself. Behind her, a diminishing perspective of standard roses blazed like lamps; while a man in a tweed coat bent down to pat a box hedge as if congratulating it. “This is solid!” he called to someone they couldn’t see. “This’ll have been here a few years!” From two gardens away, one of the Childe peacocks screamed in glee.

Alice shaded her eyes and blnked up at Victoria “It reminds me of being seven,” she said, “when the whole world looked like this.” She sat up and dipped her feet in the water, watched intently the glittering eddies that whirled off across the surface. “Don’t you remember when everything looked like this?”

Victoria shrugged. “People always think that.” She could see her own face in the pool, of course; and beneath that something overgrown.

“Tell me you haven’t been wading about in here,” she said.

There was some suggestion that they should go and eat a pub meal down by the river, but the afternoon had left her tired and a little anxious. So she dropped the waitress off in town and went home, where she had baked beans on toast and wrote an email to Short.

“You never saw so many roses in one place! As for Alice, she has her own aesthetic, Rosie the Riveter meets Jaqueline Kennedy and they talk about everything in the world but men. I quite like that. Of course, she’s a bit of a mystery.” Admitting this to herself made her think for a moment before going on: “My new discovery is, the whole family used to live next door! I haven’t a clue who any of them are, really. But they knew my mum–or so they say. And here I am, alone in a new town. So in those circumstances what is a woman to do?

“Anyway,” she finished, “In the end I didn’t buy anything. I couldn’t make up my mind.”

Then she pressed Delete and went to sleep.

You can always come with me now, of course; or find me on Twitter, @mjohnharrison.

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the real dream

I dreamed of being in love with an airline pilot. I was younger than I am now. She was tall and full of life. Her father, a short man who had flown jet fighters in the Falklands, came out against the affair. He hated me because I was only a passenger and I had been late on to the plane. My papers weren’t fully in order, which caused one hold up; after which there was something to do with pills, which caused another. I had hurt my left hand climbing. Trying to be cheerful with everyone, I said: “These gritstone abrasions are always slow to heal.” But really, the thumb and part of the hand were missing and the exposed flesh had gone an odd colour. Inside the various cracks and fissures of the wound, so that they looked as if they were interleaved with strips of raw bacon, were strange creamy looking blobs of something. I didn’t want to acknowledge this but in the end I had to look. They were small, slim, white crocuses, growing in tight clusters in my hand. When I woke up it was snowing again.

“there are goats richer than us”

1491. Oakham, a fictional village just outside Bruton in Somerset, is a dump. Its villagers are a rowdy, bad-luck menagerie of “scrags and outcasts”. A row of poor harvests has devastated their investment in arable farming. Isolated in a bend of the river, they need a bridge to the outside world. The surrounding villages are getting rich on imported sugar and the new sugar products; they’re still getting rich on wool–while even in that established trade Oakham lags technologically, spinning with distaff and spindle, fulling the wool by foot. “There are goats richer than us,” John Reve, the local priest, ruefully admits. Then, a few days before the beginning of Lent, a corpse snags briefly on a fallen tree in the river, then vanishes… Read the rest of my review of Samantha Harvey’s The Western Wind here.

did you see him

I saw him too! He was with his cat. The cat–it was white–was keeping three feet ahead and about five to the side, in the angle between the wall and the street. I’m glad you saw them, and especially there. I daydream about the light there this time of year. I can’t quite understand why I’m not there now. It’s an enchanted venue more than any other. You hear the music two streets away. You look up and see soot. A church. Trees, feathered against the sky like something real. The world is just completely perfect, completely completed. The minotaur hides in the maze, the maze hides in itself. Look down at your hands, so cold you can hardly open them. Time to go now, it will all be there for you again tomorrow. It’s a noticeboard with just so much of everything written on it, we must somehow preserve that. We’re brave enough but we have to make such tragic assumptions.

You Should Come With Me Now