the m john harrison blog

Month: May, 2021

the sunken land continues to rise

TSL is already my most successful novel. Nothing prepared me for the Goldsmiths prize; or for Russell T Davies’s recent fantastic & heartwarming review over on Instagram. It’s out in paperback in the UK now, & also available for preorder in the US and Canada.

In other news, the next book, tentatively entitled Fall Lines, or perhaps Fault Lines, or perhaps something else altogether, is finished and taking its first charming baby steps into what it sees as a shiny new world of possibility. It’s a compiled anti-memoir; a heavily fragmented nonfiction doped with fictional elements; a kind of How-to-Write; and a meditation on the impossibility of a coherent self (let alone the self’s looking back). An early responder called it “a book that invents a form and teaches you how to read it as you go along”. We shall have to hope that’s a good practical assessment.

It has an accompanying secret project, very exciting, more of which when everything’s sorted out.

Meanwhile, a new novel potters along, trying to understand the difference between disaster as its own retrospective & disaster as a series of moments in what used to be called “current affairs”. Clearly, one of the things both the classic 1950s disaster novel and the contemporary disaster novel got wrong was to regard the catastrophe as a complete object–an historical event with identifiable timelines and identifiable causalities, explorable as if by hindsight–rather than the patchy, emergent & incoherently combinative process it appears to be to its subjects as it unscrolls.

The big question today is: in a slow disaster like ours, when do you give up and admit that something has gone wrong? How does the prevailing culture persuade the frogs to stay in the pot? That is, to what extent will people learn to take it all for granted? And how grotesque might that look, late-ish on in the process? (Actually, it isn’t about any of that.)



“How it is” explanations. “What can’t be done” explanations. “Sorry, it’s never done that way” explanations. “If you have this thing you can’t have that other thing” (& the closely-related “If you’re this thing you can’t be that thing”) explanations. “Why you shouldn’t want what you want given the present state of play” explanations. All patiently-reasoned & reasonable explanations.