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Source: (consider it) Thread: March Book Group: Boneland by Alan Garner
andras
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# 2065

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Indeed - everyone does it! There's a famous Laurel and Hardy film (Swiss Miss, I think) in which the two are struggling over a rope bridge with a piano when a gorilla appears from nowhere. You can imagine how it ends, but it's probably somewhere on You Tube anyway.

Brenda, I think your judgement was kinder than mine, and probably fairer. A good edit would have done the book a world of good.

On a completely different topic, there's a good review by Ursula K Le Guin of Gaiman's book of Norse myths in today's Guardian. It's here: Neil Gaiman review

(Norse myths, Neil Gaiman and Ursula Le Guin! What joy!)

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God's on holiday.
(Why borrow a cat?)
Adrian Plass

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Sarasa
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# 12271

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I like fanatsy when I can buy into the world, where strange things might happen, but they make sense in the world the book is set in, whether that is somehwere else entirely or an alternative reality. I just didn't buy into this at all, though I think I like the idea that it might all be in Colin's head.

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Previously Gussie.
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ArachnidinElmet
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# 17346

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I think I am as disappointed as everyone else seems to be. The ending seemed to disappear into nothing.

The Mesolithic (?) stuff appeared to be from a different book, one which I would have preferred to read. The description of the movement of the heavens as animals kept moving by ritual and cave paintings, secret caves and living rock, giving the dead bodies of the woman and child to 'life' via bird predation, all made sense to me. And then the end of one culture, superseded or changed by another. This last is the only link I can find with Colin other than place.

The Colin stuff really bothered me. Did anyone else find it dated? It felt set in the 1960s more than 2010s. This might be a function of the type of language used by Bert and Meg, which makes some sense if it's the slang from Colin's childhood. How did he get paid/keep contact with his doctor's surgery/pay his bills if he doesn't have a proper address. It's much more difficult to do that kind of thing now than it once was.

I'm glad I hadn't reread the earlier books. I think I'll leave a bit of a gap and read them as a separate work.

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'If a pleasant, straight-forward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle manoeuvres' - Kafka

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Penny S
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# 14768

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Last night I watched the live astronomy programme from Australia (though not live when I watched it), and part of it was devoted to the indigenous people's knowledge of astronomy through the reflection of the sky patterns on the ground in the songlines.
I wonder if Garner has come across anything about this. The way of thinking certainly seems to be echoed in the Mesolithic sections of the book, and there are not many places where such 'primitive' thinking can be accessed live.
I know he read Watkins on ley lines, which might be seen as our version of songlines (except the way the idea has been developed since Watkins goes way beyond either what is feasible in the material world, or sensible in the way the land can be walked upon).

It's the narrow bridge in the underground world which gets me. The folk tale versions can be in the open air. And it isn't the same as the rope bridge version.

[ 29. March 2017, 13:40: Message edited by: Penny S ]

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Brenda Clough
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# 18061

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quote:
Originally posted by ArachnidinElmet:


The Colin stuff really bothered me. Did anyone else find it dated? It felt set in the 1960s more than 2010s. This might be a function of the type of language used by Bert and Meg, which makes some sense if it's the slang from Colin's childhood. How did he get paid/keep contact with his doctor's surgery/pay his bills if he doesn't have a proper address. It's much more difficult to do that kind of thing now than it once was.

(Heavy sigh) This is a problem, I agree. Colin's story line is full of logic holes, even if you heavily apply the spackle of mental illness.
How did he become a noted astronomer? Surely you cannot live in Cheshire all your life to do this; the astronomers I know move around, to where the big telescopes/universities/research facilities are. You need to build your academic resume, and then you can secure a permanent position at your fave facility in your home town. This does not comport well with being the permanent guardian of the Edge.
And this implies that at least for a large chunk of his life Colin had all his marbles. In the book he is clearly partially disabled, especially if you argue that all the stuff we don't understand (the caveman stuff) is in his head. He is not employable as he is now depicted; even his current boss says so.
How did he acquire his current home? Perhaps during the period when he was compos mentis? I cannot recall how the farm couple in the previous books were related to Colin and Susan, but they did not have a cave.
What this feels like is a work that Garner wrote at some earlier point and then set aside -- a trunk novel. (It might have been inspired by the installation of the telescope facility in Cheshire, a fortuitous coincidence that would kick off anybody's imagination. God, it's perfect. Science and myth hold hands and kiss!) You rightly point out that the various chunks of the work grate against each other, poorly mortised together -- as if they spring from separate imaginative wells, or were written many years apart.
He was never able to get it into satisfactory shape (I still think beta readers would have helped) but then as time went on, and the flow of invention failed while financial issues pressed, he dug it out and polished it up. The publishers took a flyer on it, only semi-falsely billing it as the third book in a trilogy. And here we are.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer

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Penny S
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# 14768

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I've just searched on the term "Jodrell Bank Red Shift Alan Garner", and there's interesting stuff out there.

I may be some time before returning.

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Penny S
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# 14768

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But not.

There's this.

quote:
In 1957 Alan sat in his ancient farmhouse, Toad Hall, looking across the fields at Jodrell Bank’s recently completed Lovell Telescope and turning a ‘black pebble’ in his hand – a 500,000 year-old stone axe. ‘The telescope was moving – alert. It was watching a quasar… I needed to know the telescope.’ He went to see Bernard Lovell, taking with him another axe, three and a half thousand years old, beautifully polished and shaped with a hole bored through it for the haft. (Where did he find these axes? I should love to know.) With the words ‘I have something to show you,’ he dropped the axe on Lovell’s desk. ‘This is the telescope.’

Sir Bernard gave him a pass, understanding what he meant.

The axe is the forerunner of the telescope.

from Alan at Jodrell
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Penny S
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# 14768

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And now:

Interview on Boneland

The Statesman on Garner Lecture

Podcast of Oxford lecture

Jodrell Bank advertises first Garner Lecture

Garner with a Guardian reading group

[ 29. March 2017, 17:15: Message edited by: Penny S ]

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andras
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# 2065

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If, as he says, Boneland scared Garner while writing it, then clearly he was aware of something in it that has passed me by completely.

I think Brenda has it. Two books, mixed together with the joins still showing. Shame, because the man can write brilliantly; but it helps to know what you want to say and to be able to express it. Technical ability is no substitute for the art of story telling.

--------------------
God's on holiday.
(Why borrow a cat?)
Adrian Plass

Posts: 397 | From: Tregaron | Registered: Dec 2001  |  IP: Logged
Tubbs

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# 440

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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
quote:
Originally posted by ArachnidinElmet:


The Colin stuff really bothered me. Did anyone else find it dated? It felt set in the 1960s more than 2010s. This might be a function of the type of language used by Bert and Meg, which makes some sense if it's the slang from Colin's childhood. How did he get paid/keep contact with his doctor's surgery/pay his bills if he doesn't have a proper address. It's much more difficult to do that kind of thing now than it once was.

(Heavy sigh) This is a problem, I agree. Colin's story line is full of logic holes, even if you heavily apply the spackle of mental illness.
How did he become a noted astronomer? Surely you cannot live in Cheshire all your life to do this; the astronomers I know move around, to where the big telescopes/universities/research facilities are. You need to build your academic resume, and then you can secure a permanent position at your fave facility in your home town. This does not comport well with being the permanent guardian of the Edge.
And this implies that at least for a large chunk of his life Colin had all his marbles. In the book he is clearly partially disabled, especially if you argue that all the stuff we don't understand (the caveman stuff) is in his head. He is not employable as he is now depicted; even his current boss says so.
How did he acquire his current home? Perhaps during the period when he was compos mentis? I cannot recall how the farm couple in the previous books were related to Colin and Susan, but they did not have a cave.
What this feels like is a work that Garner wrote at some earlier point and then set aside -- a trunk novel. (It might have been inspired by the installation of the telescope facility in Cheshire, a fortuitous coincidence that would kick off anybody's imagination. God, it's perfect. Science and myth hold hands and kiss!) You rightly point out that the various chunks of the work grate against each other, poorly mortised together -- as if they spring from separate imaginative wells, or were written many years apart.
He was never able to get it into satisfactory shape (I still think beta readers would have helped) but then as time went on, and the flow of invention failed while financial issues pressed, he dug it out and polished it up. The publishers took a flyer on it, only semi-falsely billing it as the third book in a trilogy. And here we are.

Garner has always struck me as someone who wouldn't publish something unless he felt it was "right".

To me, it is the third book in the series, but it reflects Garner as he writes now rather than as he wrote then.

It's rooted in time and place, reflects some of the themes of the first two books, tells us about the characters now and is downright weird.

And the downright weird is the problem ... When they said the third book was coming out, I was expecting more of the same, forgetting that since then Garner has written The Owl Service, Red Shift and The Stone Book. We were never going to get more of the same. I love him for doing that as more of the same would have been the safe bet whilst this was a total risk. And I hate him for it. As my childhood memories aren't quite the same. Colin as a piss-head in a cave was never how I thought it would end!

Next time I offer to host the group, I shall make sure to choose something considerably less odd. (And forbid my family from having any dramas).

Tubbs

--------------------
"It's better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than open it up and remove all doubt" - Dennis Thatcher. My blog. Decide for yourself which I am

Posts: 12569 | From: Someplace strange | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Huia
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# 3473

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Tubbs, if you manage the bit about forbidding family dramas, could you please write an advice column? Actually you could probably make a tidy profit in the self-help industry.

Huia

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Charity gives food from the table, Justice gives a place at the table.

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