Review of Boneland by Alan Garner


I went back and re-read Weirdstone and Gomrath, then read Boneland a second time to see if it worked as a sequel and culmination to the first two books. On first reading Boneland, before Christmas, I thought it did work but now, having refreshed my memory of the previous books, I don’t think it does. As a stand alone book, relying on vague memories of books read years ago, and telling the story of a middle-aged man dealing with mental illness it is quite brilliant. But, with Weirdstone and Gomrath fresh in mind, there are too many loose ends for it to work as sequel and culmination.


What seems to have happened is that at some unspecified point after the end of Gomrath, Susan rides off on Prince. The horse is found on an island in Redesmere (said island having been unknown to all including Gowther in Weirdstone but now apparently common knowledge) but no trace of Susan is ever found. Colin, in a frenzy to find her, goes to the Edge and attempts to wake the Sleepers (quite how knights supposed to fight a final battle against evil could find a sister who’s ridden off into the stars is not perhaps obvious, but let’s grant that Colin is distraught). Presumably to stop Colin doing this again, Cadellin makes him forget everything that happened before his 13th birthday, but then makes him guardian of the Edge, unable to ever leave. Colin, as an adult, then undergoes psychotherapy with Meg, who appears to be a considerably more attractive and much kinder version of the Morrigan. No mention is ever made of what happened to Colin and Susan’s parents, and a pair who were previously siblings, with Colin the elder, suddenly become twins. Gowther and Bess die off stage in the gap between books.

Another problem, with respect to the first two books, is the pre-human shaman who sings upon the Edge in prehistory. I can see how this shows the antiquity of the Edge, and how its stories play out through repeated epochs, but, as a sequel to the first two books, it would have been better to counterpoint the present with a magician/shaman from the pre-history that figures in the Weirdstone and Gomrath, namely the early British (Celtic) legends and lore of this land, before the Romans came.

I do not see how these actions can be squared with what we know of the characters from the first two books. So, Boneland I would classify as a brilliant book on its own, and even better when it draws upon the distant memories of stories read in childhood, rather as childhood itself disappears into revisited and rehearsed memories and photos, and the life stuff that is completely lost and gone. But when read in sequence, so that the previous books are fresh in memory, Boneland seems a failure as a sequel, since it does not follow, embroider or flesh out the first two books, but rather contradicts them in too many ways.

I would be interested to hear other people’s thoughts.

How Not To Respond To Rejection

An editor friend received the below email in response to a story he had rejected.

Good sir,
Your rejection of the walls proves you are a dunderheaded ignoramus. It is the classic story, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Gilman. It is sad that you, good sir, are in charge of what is and is not approved. An editor who uses, “omg” is by far, just some crazy man within his own world who lives with cats and is overweight, got picked on a lot as a fat child and wants to play in a pretend world where he is king and queen. Please, good sir, go to college. Take American Literature and bone up on your skills, read some books on editing and volunteer for an actual magazine as proofreader before naming yourself the judge of author’s work in your fat little world. By being a dunderhead in a faux position, you are stifling people with actual talent, unlike fatheaded and fat-bellied self. A game of jealousy on your part, will only hurt your overfed belly and jiggle your neck fat as you heckle from behind a monitor which the state paid for due to your psychological disability. Waddle yourself into a brick and mortar book store and pick up a collection of American Literature and do some reading. That, is free advice from a man with a degree in the science of rocketry.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Gilman is undoubtedly a classic. At 6,000 words it is also 4,000 words longer than the limit for my friend’s magazine. So a degree in rocketry appears to provide neither basic arithmetical skills nor graciousness in rejection (the letter writer had had one of his own stories returned previously).

It’s Here!!!!

Now, pdfs and all the other technological and digital whizz bangs that allow files and pictures to be shared between computers and tablets and pills and potions and what not are all very well, but, believe me, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to compare with holding the first paper copy of the book you’ve spent the last three years working on in your hands.

There it is, pictures, words, the whole blessed shebang: a real, actual, frankly all-but-breathing thing! You can take your Kindles and your iPads and all the other devices that depend on moving electrons around and shove them. Give me paper, give me vellum, give me inky fingers and pages you can flick through marvelling at the pictures, the design, the way the words sit upon the page.

So, here it is, Northumbria: The Lost Kingdom, held in my slightly shaky hands!

In my hands.




Me, me and, er, me

One look into the panic-stricken eyes of an author, pinned on the jacket of his latest book by a photographer, will reveal a simple truth: there is a reason he chose not to become an actor. Dear Reader, being married to a woman who used to be an actress and always, always, looks wonderful in photographs, I have come to appreciate that there is skill, art and knowledge involved in looking good on camera – I don’t think I would have paid Helena Christensen $10,000 to get out of bed, but a good model is certainly worth a reasonable fee.

We live in a visual age, however, and I am now being asked to provide photos – of me – for interviews and jacket covers. I decided, therefore, not to accept my usual photographic image as the human chipmunk and ask a good friend and fine photographer, Sarah Lim, to take some pictures of me that wouldn’t actually scare away readers. I think she has more than succeeded in that – the initial amazement (‘wow, I actually look pretty good’) has given way to unwonted and unwanted stirrings of vanity (‘maybe she could photoshop the spots’) – but now I have to decide which photo to use. In that, I ask your advice, dear reader. Which of these photos do you think is the best?


CS Lewis on Writing

Also from the excellent Inklings blog:

I am sure that some are born to write as trees are born to bear leaves: for these, writing is a necessary mode of their own development.  If the impulse to write survives the hope of success, then one is among these.  If not, then the impulse was at best only pardonable vanity, and it will certainly disappear when the hope is withdrawn.

C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves,
The Letters of C.S. Lewis, (28 August 1930)
I have, I think, gone past the hope of success.