December 20, 2015 at 6:34 pm #643
Having read and relished Number 11, I wanted to write to say how strongly I connected with Roger and The Crystal Garden element in your novel.
I grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s. Daytime television was still a strange patchwork of test cards, children’s programmes and baffling fillers – transmitter information bulletins, public information films short Spanish films about men trapped in telephone kiosks. I could not have explained it thus then, but it was as if daytime television constituted a sort of subconscious mind, with evening television (official, authored, audience aware) being the conscious mind of the medium. It could sometimes feel as if the programmes were being broadcast for no audience at all, that I was watching alone. And if I was off school with what was then called a cold (never a virus), another numinous layer was added to the sense of oddness when watching television.
I even remember – and this is a little off topic – the occasion when an absurd but compelling rumour went round the upper classes of my junior school that the BBC screened black and white films of the holocaust during ‘closedown’ – that approximately five hour stretch of white noise and ‘snow’ which dominated television after 1am long before (some Winshaw, no doubt) invented those wretched late night gambling shows. I remember getting up at 3am and going to check the veracity of this tasteless urban myth. Thankfully, there was only ‘snow’ on telly. And then my Dad wondering what on Earth was going on.
Apt that Roger should somehow connect The Crystal Garden with welfarism. Like Roger, I grew up in a world where those who exercised power seemed broadly benevolent. As a disabled person in modern Britain, I now feel literally despised by authority for so much as needing help. The wonderfully extreme conclusion of your novel articulates very well the sense of impotent, despairing rage being felt in England right now.
Thanks for a great and thought provoking read.December 29, 2015 at 1:34 pm #980
Thanks so much for this post, and I’m really glad that The Crystal Garden section of Number 11 resonated for you. For me, this episode is a mash-up of several things: a postmodern reworking of HG Wells’s The Door In The Wall (do read that amazing story if you haven’t already) combined with my own memories of watching 60s and 70s TV, especially the East European fairy story The Singing Ringing Tree. I’d never thought of your analogy between daytime TV and the subconscious mind before, though – that’s very ingenious!
What you say about feeling ‘despised by authority’ is upsetting to read but sadly believable. There is so much wrong with British society at the moment. Like so many people, I wish I could do something positive to bring about change, but the best I can manage (and it’s not enough, I know) is to write novels which attempt to reflect the situation truthfully.
Very best wishes
JonathanDecember 30, 2015 at 2:45 pm #984
Thank you for your reply to my comments.
I was familiar with The Door in the Wall. It was one of a large number of HG Wells short stories read to me as a child by my Mother, who grew bored with children’s literature more quickly than I did. Even as a child, the story made me feel a nostalgia for yet earlier childhood, the sort of feeling conjured up by Lewis Carroll when Alice is looking at beautiful garden she cannot (yet) get into.
The Crystal Garden also called to mind an old Tom Stoppard radio play (Where Are They Now, it may have been called) about a school reunion in which one character recalls being perfectly happy on one occasion during childhood. This occasion is not a Christmas morning or birthday, just a walk down a corridor at school during which the boy felt entirely carefree. He says he has never been truly happy since. I wonder if we all have such moments? I hope so. But I also suspect that making shrines of such moments has its dangers.November 25, 2016 at 11:16 pm #990
This is definitely one of the most impressive and moving pieces of prose I’ve ever read. The sad and tragic way things turn out for him, and his widow’s conclusion at the end made me shiver. Jonathan, I think that in general you strike a very important chord with this novel. I had never expected a sequel to ‘What a Carve Up!’, but in a way this might be what we might have expected of it. It says so much about our society the way ‘What a Carve Up!’ said about the late eighties. The way you write about the gigantic gap between the rich and the poor, and how grabbing and greed have become serious illnesses, the victims of which are we, not the people who ‘suffer’ from the illness, how everything has become a commodity, it all gives a voice to the way I see society. Once again you prove your novels have a far deeper impact on me than 95% of the other works of fiction I read, and that experience is very soothing. Over the past few years I’ve been re-reading most of your novels (most of them for a second time, others for a third time), and I can only conclude I’m far from as unfortunate as Roger. I have the novels right here and I can travel back to their storyworld, their suspense and their wit any time I want. Thank you for not letting us down in what is in fact a sequel to what is imho the most important and impressive novel of all time.
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