Hi Jonathan. I have just finished “Number 11”. Before delving into it – since it was advertised as a sort of “oblique sequel” to “What a Carve Up” – I re-read the novel that made history as a “post-modern classic”. As others have noticed, the years have not passed without a trace (for you as well as for me, I mean). In short: bitterness got the upper hand and the mad vitality of your first world-wide successful book surrendered to a sort of melancholic bafflement. (I must say that, as I proceeded in reading, I was reminded of my response to Amelia after reveling in the rest of Fielding’s oeuvre.)
But let’s go to the point. I have a question for you. A very general one, but I hope that it gives you a chance to mull over an aspect of your narrative style that strikes me as a sort of red thread all the way through.
Since “The Rain before it Falls” I began noticing the role that magic or, better, eeriness play in your stories. Strange coincidences, omens, altered states of consciousness, proliferate in your tales. The weird thing is that your fictional world is otherwise fully secular. Christianity, for example, survives in it only as a silly and somewhat dangerous relic of the past (often in the form of crazy religious fundamentalists). In contrast, the paranormal thrives as a sort of ineradicable aspect of the human condition. And if I remember correctly, magic – under the guise of the White Goddess – was distressingly important also in B.S. Johnson’s tragic life.
So, what do you make of the subsistence of a sense of enchantment and magic in a fully secularized world? Is it a sort of nostalgia for paganism? A British cultural landmark? An aspect of the post-modern mind? Another way of “monetizing wonder”? Just a literary trick? Or what else?
Thanks for any clarification or input!