Michael Irwin, 30 March 1989
Fiction derives from facts as paper derives from trees, but in either case the transformation can be left incomplete. While many a novel of the past twenty years or so has hinted or advertised its fictionality, others have asserted in various ways their entanglement with real life. The three works to be discussed here are of this latter kind, fibrous with circumstance. The characteristic could be seen alternatively as a strength or a limitation. It suggests relevance, authenticity: a real-life problem has been addressed, a true story transliterated. These are no mere flights of the imagination. But to claim so much, even by implication, is to invite a potentially damaging counter-argument. Why has ‘imagination’ been invoked at all? Would not the work in question be yet more authoritative and persuasive as frank documentary or autobiography?