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Thread: M John Harrison

  1. #1
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    Default M John Harrison

    Just got one of his books called Anima. It's essentially two novelettes, the first of which is called The Course of the Heart. It's a beautifully written novel whose main theme is regret mixed with some off-stage occultism. The whole thing is tinged with melancholy and a kind of hovering menace which may be from the rituals which the protagonists appear to have taken part in, or may be due to the illness of one of the main characters, or then again it could simply arise from the grey washed-out England in which the whole story takes place. The book is bleak and at times nails characters and actions with a precision that could be called cruel... and yet there is something I can't quite grasp which redeems this slightly, albeit possibly just as a kind of great sadness.
    I've looked up several reviews/explanations of the book and it seems that there are a number of interpretations although I can't really buy into the most radical ones I've read. I would be keen to know if anyone has read the book though and what their take is of if anyone has read any of his other stuff. I know Woops has read Light so maybe I'll check that later. At the moment I'm just this minute embarking on the second story in Anima.

  2. #2
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    My SF-loving friend rates him very highly. Been hearing his name more and more: sounds like one to check out!

  3. #3
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    Not such a huge fan. Read some of his stuff years ago and liked it, but gave up on the 'light' trilogy.

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    I'm a huge fan of Light, (bar the final line). I could talk your ear off about it, but maybe I'll spare you until you've read it. I can lend it to you if you want? I have had Anima sitting unread on my shelves for years. Like a lot of my favourite writers, I think Harrison writes incredible prose. He manages to evoke unseen, just-hinted-at feelings and moods, almost emotions that don't actually exist apart from as side products of his writing. I can't explain better than that. I would really like to read his book about climbing. I read a brilliant interview with him talking about the macho obsessiveness in the sport.

    Light is in short, I think about fear and alienation, rather than speculative future forecast wizardry. But then again, I don't know if any SF is about that these days.
    Last edited by DannyL; 22-04-2014 at 08:41 PM.

  5. #5
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    Have just finished the first book of Anima after many years of it sitting around and am absolutely knocked for six, what a book. Does anyone fancy discussing? Do you still remember it Rich?
    An opener - seems to have heavily gnostic themes. The Pleroma is a gnostic concept IIRC and so much of the novel seems to be about the imagination and the visionary set against the Black Iron Prison of grim mortality with inconvenient, dysfuctional bodies getting ill and pissing themselves. Love seems bound up with Pleroma as well - the transcendant, transporting ecstasy that makes life worth living.

    Also - I have a bit of a penchant for fictional depictions of horrible black magicians (can't think why that would be) i.e figures like John Constantine and Yaxley is such a great, revolting, mad creation. One of the best I've read.

    Harrison's writing style as well - he seems to illustrate emotion by not describing but hinting. A character states what'd normally be a set up for a response in so much other fictional dialogue, but he always seems to move the action on, and therefore kinda hints at the unsaid, the inbetweeness of the character's feeling. Really unuusal but very rich and evocative and leads to a pervasive sense of me as reader only half-understanding what's occurring.

    Altogether brilliant. Now someone talk to me about it.
    Last edited by DannyL; 20-04-2019 at 01:39 PM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by DannyL View Post
    Have just finished the first book of Anima after many years of it sitting around and am absolutely knocked for six, what a book. Does anyone fancy discussing? Do you still remember it Rich?
    An opener - seems to have heavily gnostic themes. The Pleroma is a gnostic concept IIRC and so much of the novel seems to be about the imagination and the visionary set against the Black Iron Prison of grim mortality with inconvenient, dysfuctional bodies getting ill and pissing themselves. Love seems bound up with Pleroma as well - the transcendant, transporting ecstasy that makes life worth living.

    Also - I have a bit of a penchant for fictional depictions of horrible black magicians (can't think why that would be) i.e figures like John Constantine and Yaxley is such a great, revolting, mad creation. One of the best I've read.

    Harrison's writing style as well - he seems to illustrate emotion by not describing but hinting. A character states what'd normally be a set up for a response in so much other fictional dialogue, but he always seems to move the action on, and therefore kinda hints at the unsaid, the inbetweeness of the character's feeling. Really unuusal but very rich and evocative and leads to a pervasive sense of me as reader only half-understanding what's occurring.

    Altogether brilliant. Now someone talk to me about it.
    Dan, go on my facebook, someone recommended M John Harrison yesterday weirdly enough. He would probably be up for discussion. I guess I remember those books well enough myself although I'd completely forgotten the title....

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    Will do. Another quick thought - the mysterious book that Lucas is writing, Michael Ashman's Beautiful Swimmers - reminds me of nothing more than WG Sebald.

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    horrible black magicians
    Surprised at this racism man.

    Quote Originally Posted by DannyL View Post
    Will do. Another quick thought - the mysterious book that Lucas is writing, Michael Ashman's Beautiful Swimmers - reminds me of nothing more than WG Sebald.
    Ok, seems I sadly don't remember as much as I thought - including this bit.

  9. #9
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    I hadn’t heard of him until a few weeks ago when he was the subject of Jonathan Gibbs’ weekly mail out of short story recommendations. His selections start, unsurprisingly with Machen https://apersonalanthology.com/page/3/

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