NEW BOOK: WISH I WAS HERE
An anti memoir, coming from Serpent’s Tail in May 2023
‘Wish I Was Here is a masterpiece. I don’t use that word lightly: I’ve not loved a book as much as this for years. Pleating together the quotidian and fantastic, the material and ineffable, it is at once a beguiling autobiography and a sustained interrogation of genre, craft, and the uses of history, and a perfect instantiation of what it is to write and what it is to live. Formally inventive, constantly surprising, M John Harrison has written an archaeology of fragments that shivers with wholeness. It’s exquisite’ — Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk
Not so much how to preserve the past as how to get in touch with it at all. It’s not how good or bad you are at remembering, it’s the level of dissociation you were experiencing at the time. From the start you’re in a struggle with memory’s means of communication. What’s signal? What’s noise? What’s neither, only some artefact of the process itself? Ghosts, late style & the Zen of the weird. Wish I Was Here reads like an ugly cross between “You: Coma: Marilyn Monroe” and The Ladybird Book of Understanding Maps.
‘M. John Harrison puts to work a writerly consciousness and imaginativeness like no other. Wish I Was Here doesn’t reinvent memoir; it quietly constructs an entire new ballpark’ — Isabel Waidner, author of Sterling Karat Gold
‘An extraordinary writer and an extraordinary book. I don’t know how to describe it, which is to say that I’ll read it again, and again. Writing about writing, writing about living, living about writing, all are difficult, and all achieved here in perfect, restless sentences that will not stop thinking’ — Helen Castor, author of She-Wolves
A short, fragmented, hybrid, skittish attempt—based on decades of notebooks, journals, blogposts, emails, out-takes and other kinds of writing including some fiction—to find out why you can’t find out anything about yourself by “looking” backwards. Also why repression & forgetfulness are better for writers than than trying to come to terms with something that is no longer there. But also how the future isn’t looking much better; and how the wishfulness of fantasy and science fiction have been messing us up since the mid-1970s.
‘Hilarious and haunting’ — William Gibson, author of The Peripheral
‘Harrison is the shape-shifting master of absent and elusive things. In this mesmerising book, the author – or rather his style – goes in search of what may have been his memories of different versions of his life. The result is an enchantment of instability, usually ungraspable, always intense.’ — Neil MacGregor, author of Living with the Gods
“In any case, who can’t love a book that has the stamina to describe a rose as ‘thuggish’?” –Sunjeev Sahota, author of The Year of the Runaways.
I will be compiling an earlier version of the author, who was suppressed for fifty years by London, writing, and the writing industry. His lostness, his elusiveness, his fragmentariness, his willed lack of agency, his tendency to live off to the side of events, will occupy this book the way he occupied his life. I hesitate to use the word haunt. I also intend to contact his darker sibling. This creature knows the score! They’re at home in every text! This book will be their book, a book of personal metaphysics or surreal phenomenology. It will be what, between the two of them, they arranged my life to be: a memoir without history. There will be no continuity and no social or professional revelations.
‘A deep dive into the back-and-forth, up-down, sideways mind of a true genius. An immersive pleasure and a literary adventure’ — Monique Roffey, author of The Mermaid of Black Conch
‘I love this book, even if I don’t know how to describe it. Is it a memoir? Is it a handbook for writers? As always with M John Harrison, you’re never quite sure what you’re reading or where it will take you next. There are only a few certainties: that it will surprise you, sometimes astound you, and leave you profoundly changed’ — Jonathan Coe, author of The Rotters’ Club