Flowering and Fading

Michael Irwin

  • Wrinkles by Charles Simmons
    Alison Press/Secker, 182 pp, £4.95, January 1980, ISBN 0 436 46490 X
  • Devotion by Botho Strauss, translated by Sophie Wilkins
    Chatto, 120 pp, £5.50, January 1980, ISBN 0 7011 2421 0
  • The Followed Man by Thomas Williams
    Sidgwick, 352 pp, £5.95, January 1980, ISBN 0 399 90025 X
  • Reverse Negative by André Jute
    Secker, 264 pp, £5.95, January 1980, ISBN 0 436 22980 3

Two of the novels under review consist of a series of fragments that the reader is tacitly invited to relate. This elliptical mode carries certain obvious advantages: it makes for tautness; it does away with irksome problems of exposition, verisimilitude and consistency. The reader is likely to be particularly alert, apprehensive lest he miss the point: it could be that something deucedly sophisticated is going on. But there are risks. The attentive reader will want an adequate recompense for his attentiveness. The white gap that follows each fragment is a space within which its significance will reverberate: an elliptical novel can subside dolefully into a series of flat notes.

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