Thursday, July 31, 2008


Today my friend Alan Wall's excellent book, SYLVIE'S RIDDLE is published. It is set in Chester and Liverpool. To celebrate I wandered around Chester with my camera and matched scenes with passages from the book.

The main character, Owen Treadle, has lost his memory and this causes him to see everything in a new way. The result is prose that is akin to poetry...

'...Owen walked along the canal and then up on the city walls. Now the water was beneath him, catching lights the city threw away. He looked up at the sky. There were gods up there, amongst the wreckage of their ancient implements. Ploughs, nets, tridents....'
'...He stared across the square at a window filled with ghost-brides, wrapped in white cotton, satin and silk. The Havisham Room: it filled him with dread, a dread he had no words for...'
'...He walked across to the cathedral gate and before he even arrived he could hear it. The laughter, the cheering, the shouting, even though no one there was actually laughing or cheering or shouting, only leaving their traces back and forth in a mangle of space...'
'...The next day he left early, wandering in and out of the shops, a vagrant, a revenant of his own curiosity. Instruments, confections, garments: they were all slotting back in place now. The cupboard of invisible objects inside him was filling up again. The present’s inventory. He stood before the antique jeweller’s window: so many lives in those little gleaming emblems. Engagement rings, wedding rings pawned off after death or divorce. The ouroboros of love. What was that? He couldn’t remember. A snake with its tail in its mouth? Was that what he was? Eating the endless circle of himself? There was even an eternity ring. He only hoped death had brought that one here. Otherwise eternity was so short it didn’t even last for one lifetime...'
'...He was on the city walls again. He was part of a story, like every stone beneath his feet, but he didn’t know the plot. He stared down. The bridge of sighs. Beneath that the dead men’s room, hewn from rock, stinking, fetid, domicile of rats and prisoners awaiting execution, ultimate confinement before ultimate indignity. And Little Ease, a cell the size of a man, reducible even further by boards employed upon the uncooperative miscreant. Less than the size of a man now, but still with a man inside it. Pit and pendulum. An iron glove at hand for the coaxing. The drop. The hanging. The twitching exhibition. The crowd eating, jeering, perhaps even mourning sometimes. How did he know all this?...'


Blogger Jan said...

What a lovely tribute to Alan Wall and his writing.
He must appreciate this, Clare.

Fri Aug 01, 06:31:00 pm  
Blogger Kay Cooke said...

I love what you have done here Clare -it's quite beautiful. Thank you.

Sat Aug 02, 03:06:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks Jan and Kay - beautiful writing - I really enjoyed doing this, and think I might do this again some time.

Sat Aug 02, 10:34:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that was a lovely idea--very enjoyable.

Sun Aug 03, 05:12:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks Marly! I think I'm just lucky.

Sun Aug 03, 12:25:00 pm  
Blogger Andy Hedgecock said...

I enjoyed your photographs Clare - a wonderful counterpoint to the book. And it's a wonderful book isn't it? I loved China too, and thought it deserved a much wider audience, but, for me, this is Alan Wall's best book to date.

Mon Sept 08, 05:23:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes Andy, it's a great book, and I loved School of Night and China too (I also want to read Lightning Cage, which sounds fascinating, and I have got it but haven't got down to it yet). I've also seen the one he's writing now called Badmouth, and that is also an excellent book - quite different from the rest - funny, clever and hugely imaginative. I think that one is my favourite 'Wall' to date!

Tue Sept 09, 07:51:00 am  

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