29 October, 2011

Berg by Ann Quin (1964)

When a book starts with the line: “A man called Berg, changed his name to Greb, came to a seaside town intending to kill his father” you know you are in for quite the Oedipal ride. Quin exploded onto the British literary scene in the 60s with this book, but soon drowned herself a la Virginia Woolf and was forgotten. In Berg she plays with dream, delusion and reality throughout while capturing the riotous atmosphere of 1960s Brighton, but the most interesting aspect for me was that this book – ostensibly about two men – feels like it was written by a man. 

10 October, 2011

Labyrinths by Christopher Okigbo (1971)

I don't know anyone who much reads poetry anymore. There's the effort involved and besides, it's a tricky form, more personal than prose. Donne and Dickenson might speak to you, while Baudelaire and Blake beckon me (why, yes as it happens!). Which brings us to Okigbo. Slaughtered in the Nigerian civil war of 1967 at just 35, one legend says Labyrinths includes remnants of his work, prophetically titled “the Path of Thunder”, salvaged from his burning hilltop home. And though I can't say he speaks to me, he ought to get the last word: “tears scatter, take root, burgeon into laughter of leaf...”