First Light: A Celebration Of Alan Garner
Edited by Erica Wagner
Unbound, 316 pages, out now.
Review by Ben Myers
Alan Garner occupies a unique space in the modern literary world – and as a “a shallow recess, especially one carved or set in a wall” niche is perhaps the correct word. He is either Britain’s best living writer or someone that large swathes of book lovers simply haven’t heard of, much less read. Press coverage is sporadic and scant in relation to the magnitude and durability of his novels, the visibility of his books unpredictable and public appearances are minimal.
His career – and that is definitely not a word that should be used to describe the work of someone who is reaching beyond the limitations of physical form and place to leave work to ring down the ages – is certainly a series of contradiction. He is the children’s writer who only ever wrote, simply, for people. The fantasy author for readers who do not always read fantasy. The iconic figurehead for a certain strand of literature that explores landscape, history, time and all things chthonic, who remains barely publicly recognisable, instead preferring to publish works as and when he sees fit, ensconced in his medieval house, Toad Hall, deep in the Cheshire landscape in which much of his work is set.
On this subject I have a confession: I recently met Garner at an awards ceremony and though we exchanged brief small-talk I was largely too in awe to say much, not least because he is on record as saying “I avoid writers – I don’t like them.” Only when he and his wife Griselda were leaving the building did I decide to pursue him to get a copy of his recent novel Boneland signed. It’s something I never do – Chuck D was the last person whose autograph I got, and that was in a different millennium. Nevertheless I ran through two rooms and down a hotel corridor before cornering him at the lifts. Slightly out of breath, I held out the book and pen. He smiled and shrugged, a little embarrassed. “I’d love to sign it,” he said. “But I’m afraid I’m not Alan Garner.”
Click here for the full review…