An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Reader's proof

The blook is with publishers and in one of their recent emails they inadvertently left an attachment attached - it turned out to be a precis of the reader's report and we reproduce it below. No name no pack drill on the publishers - we simply leave it to you.

The Lavender Way is the episodic story of D&G. D&G were highflying, overachieving, members of the London IT set whose social circles overlapped the arts and the artistic until a deep ennui set in. We discover them after they have forsaken their old lives and have begun again on the beautiful Mediterranean island of Crete. Drastically downsized, their new life is chronicled, but not from the beginning, by D's journal. D has become a dilettante writer while G has become a gardener par excellence. They live on a farm in an olive grove where an alarming influx of twins and possible mental patients washes up largely unremarked.

"The Lavender Way" of the title suggests, or remembers, Proust to us but the work itself, I'm loth to call it a book or even a story, feels more like a Topsy and Tim book written as an Oulipian collaboration. The mysterious Papalaz who may or may not be one of the protagonists - it is never made clear - teases entries from the daily trivia and minutiae of life on a farm, or does he? Half a dozen people write in the work but they are all linked by and to the land of the farm itself. As G carves a lavender farm out of an olive grove Papalaz and his cohorts carve a post modern meandering shaggy dog story out of the fibre of the life itself.

Our ringmaster and master of ceremonies displays a dazzling, sometimes overwhelming, admixture of erudition and common or garden stupidity as he guides us through the labyrinthine turns and twists of the Lavender Way (a title that in and of itself references the gentle humorous wordplay of Finnegans Wake). It is, I am sure, not a mere coincidence that a riveruns down past D&G. Is Papalaz's coon show make-up a camouflage or is it the real face of the author? The Lavender Way is full of such masks that may not be masks at all - Fanon would be proud of our guide through this new life; the way we are shown glimpses of a reality that might be a falsehood; of lies that just might be true.

Themes and ideas thread their way through this bizarre narrative, surfacing and sinking from sight at the whim of our ringmaster and his characters and cohorts; just as we become accustomed to a "feature" and look forward to it in the next episode it is withdrawn without notice or remark: the "Myra Hindley says:" series is a classic example: as are the strangely Flann O'Brien-like "The Odd Couple" vignettes. But, when Papalaz takes away with the right hand he gives back in trumps with the left. Just when you are mourning the passing of one creation you are presented with another innovation. There seems to be no end to the inventiveness of the author.

NOTE: The online version of this major work is enlivened by superb photographs allegedly by G but for reasons of economy our version, were we to decide to handle this property, would have to omit them.

In all my years as a reader I have never ever been so enthralled and appalled by a manuscript. The author may be a genius - an original literary luminary. He may be a charlatan. I genuinely cannot make the call. This manuscript looks to me as Ulysses must have looked to readers of its time. It is a long work, estimated 780 pp, but I cannot think of an editor who could do anything with it or one who would even attempt the feat. Would it sell? Would it make money? I don't know. I honestly do not know and I am not ashamed so to say. Should we handle it? Yes. yes and yes again. We may not get a property like this offered to us again in my lifetime and all I know for sure is that I would hate to have missed it. It may be the future. It may even be good.

PS If we buy this we MUST option the next work from this author which is currently unfolding on the web.

PPS I realised after writing this report that Sterne springs most often to mind when mining this rich web of storytelling.

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