May 22, 2010 at 9:15 pm #530bsjohnsonfanMember
hello- I would just like to say that I bought your new book this morning as a Donald Crowhurst fan of considerably long standing, read it as a B. S. Johnson fan (White Goddess and Yates’ Wine Lodge references + "you’re human like the rest of them" kindly dropped in, plus all the father/son trouble that beset Johnson during his own life), and ended it this evening as a Jonathan Coe fan.. all the same, I’m not very happy about the ending, although I get it: I’ve read fancy novels before, including Watership Down.
I must say I was completely suckered by your chapter where Maxwell gets it on with Alison- I was even saying,"ha ha- how clever to say ‘I forget’ before talking about stuff you actually remember". So I laughed like a drain at the next chapter. Now that was a real Albert Angelo moment.
all the bestMay 24, 2010 at 7:09 pm #659jon-appletonMember
I just want to say, Hey, basically. This forum is a great thing, as Jonathan Coe is a marvellous writer. One of our greatest. Nothing he writes is ever less than compelling. I’m intrigued by the reviews of MAXWELL SIM, thus far. Many people seem to imply that any failures to succeed are redeemed by a total joyfulness of effort, which I wholeheartedly embrace. I’ll be reading MS very soon – am already intrigued by the introductory quotes after the title page (they do have a name, right? Not epigraph, but …) What do other people think?
Jon.May 26, 2010 at 10:08 am #663
Thanks for that! Though I’m intrigued by the idea someone being a ‘Donald Crowhurst’ fan. A fan of the story, maybe, rather than the man himself …?May 26, 2010 at 10:09 am #664
Thanks, Jon. I hope you find things to enjoy in Maxwell Sim.May 29, 2010 at 4:46 pm #674bsjohnsonfanMember
A Crowhurst fan does sound strange. But I’ve always respected the fact that Crowhurst staked absolutely everything on the voyage, and kept going even when the only way to go was over the edge… I remember watching "Deep Water" and really feeling, when the last speaker says something like "I’ll always think of him as hero", that there was something admirable about Crowhurst even at his most perverse. Tomalin and Hall didn’t really see that; I suppose their book was written too soon after the event, when Crowhurst’s disgrace was very fresh in everybody’s memory.
By the way, I went back and reread Section 46 at the end of your Johnson biography in the light of this new novel- I’d forgotten just how much of Anstruther was in there.June 2, 2010 at 4:39 pm #677
Thinking about it, you’re right – there is something heroic about him. For all his deceptions, it took tremendous courage to attempt what he did. Self-delusion as well, maybe, but perhaps we all concentrate too much on that and forget the courage. In "Deep Water" it’s Crowhurst’s best friend, isn’t it, who calls him a hero at the very end of the film? A really moving moment. The other powerful scene is when his son, Simon, almost breaks down in the middle of an interview. I find it an extremely haunting film – I can’t think why it wasn’t as successful as Touching the Void or Man on Wire. It’s the equal of both.
Re: Roger Anstruther in my new novel – you’re the first person to mention it, but yes, I thought it would be very obvious that the whole "Rising Sun" section is very much a fictonalisation of Fragment 46 from my BS Johnson biography.June 7, 2010 at 11:19 am #680
The other way round: I started Maxwell Sim as a Jonathan Coe fan and am now a Donald Crowhurst fan as well… As soon as I got to the end of Clive’s letter, I re-read bsjohnsonfan post (I had no idea who he was talking about beforehand), I checked to see if Deep Water was anywhere to be found, and there it was, 9 parts on YouTube! Goosebumps all along and quite a few tears. Thank you JC and thank you BSJohnsonfan for bringing more humanity to the surface.June 8, 2010 at 8:50 am #684
Glad you have discovered the Crowhurst story, Claudia – I’m beginning to think it’s turning into one of the most resonant myths of recent times. (Apparently a feature film version is in development.) If you want to read further, do get Nicolas Tomalin and Ron Hall’s book, and also Peter Nicholls’ A Voyage For Madmen, which in some ways is even more fascinating, telling as it does the story of all nine competitors in the Golden Globe race: many of them had stories almost as remarkable as Crowhurst’s!June 8, 2010 at 9:27 am #685robertswipeMember
Well, what can I say? ‘The terrible privacy of Maxwell Sim’ is probably your finest work yet. I don’t know much about literature – and believe me, I have a humanities degree to prove it – but if the blurb on the back is anything to go by (which is as far as I’ve got I’m afraid) I’d say that far from being terrible, it actually promises to be a frightfully good read. Certainly better than the blurb on the back cover of the last one – *most* depressing, if you don’t mind my candour. (Although the graphics were super.)
I’m particularly chuffed with this latest because when I asked for it at my local bookshop, I was presented with a specially signed copy of the book. Imagine my further joy when I tell you that it had been signed by none other than Rodney Bewes! (I mean, think of it – I didn’t think they were letting him out until 2017!!)
All best wishes and thanks for all the words,
p.s. Do you still see much of Brian Cant? And is he still a ‘pud?’June 8, 2010 at 1:27 pm #686
Thank you for your suggestions, I’ve just ordered A Voyage for Madmen because while watching the film I was also fascinated by the weathered Knox-Johnson and by Moitessier’s wife…
Re. the blurbs, I was glad to see a reference to David Lodge (though Time Out may not be the prime source for literary critique) – have your opposite paths ever crossed (the one born in London lives in Birmigham, the one born in Birmingham lives in London)?
Re. Maxwell Sim (I’ve read about one third)… have you been to Moscow recently?June 8, 2010 at 3:23 pm #687
Claudia – yes, I know David Lodge, and like him very much both as a person and a writer. Therapy is one of my favourite novels of the last decade or so.
Re: Moscow, well spotted, I went there last year. I flew from Heathrow on the morning of Monday 16th February, and my family came to see me off.June 12, 2010 at 2:40 pm #691
Ah! Got it now … I thought you’d played Hitchcock but I see it was even more clever than that. Loved it.June 16, 2010 at 2:18 pm #692denistonrussellMember
Just finished TPMS at lunchtime today. What a hugely enjoyable book – very funny and thought-provoking and I particularly loved the ending which was great fun. It’s strange how haunting the Donald Crowhurst thing is – I vaguely remembered the news story from the time and how he was regarded with disgrace. Watching his widow, son and friend in Deep Water now you can only feel immense sympathy both for them and for Crowhurst himself. Congratulations to Jonathan whose work in my view gets better and betterJuly 1, 2010 at 2:49 pm #696jon-appletonMember
MAXWELL SIM is my book of the year, absolutely. (I know it’s only the first of July.) It isn’t any of the things I feared it would be from the dissenting reviews, or the entire page of penis enlargement email transcriptions that seemed to be the first thing I noticed on flicking through my copy. I should have known better. I think it’s an astonishingly cohesive book which, the further you read, the more persuasive it becomes. I thought it might have been just a catalogue of life in Britain in 2010 but it’s entirely the story of a man who’s come undone and his efforts to keep going. I think it’s incredibly funny – perceptive, but not harsh. I loved the short story, the letter, the essay, etc. And I think the last chapter is the perfect way to end. Full marks to the typesetter for arranging that, but moreover congratulations to Jonathan Coe. Shame it’ll be another three-year wait till the next one … JonJuly 1, 2010 at 8:42 pm #698punkalkisMember
Bought the new book yesterday, just finished it today. Yet again I feel grateful for the presence of a writer like Jonathan Coe. Such an emotional read, such an inspiring trip. Only one thing to say really…. BRAVO!!! Huge fan
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