"Now comes FIRST LIGHT, a celebration of the work of Alan Garner, whose books explore the mysterious subterranean links between the present and the past, between psychology and landscape, between the real and the dream. If the rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs and dens of the land of Britain had a voice, it would sound like Alan Garner telling a story.” - Philip Pullman
The purpose of the storyteller is to relate the truth in a manner that is simple: to integrate without reduction; for it is rarely possible to declare the truth as it is, because the Universe presents itself as a Mystery. We have to find parables; we have to tell stories to unriddle the world.
ALAN GARNER, The Voice that Thunders (1997)
Described by Philip Pullman as ‘the most important British writer of fantasy since Tolkien’, Alan Garner has enraptured generations of readers with novels like The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, The Moon of Gomrath, Elidor, The Owl Service, Red Shift, and The Stone Book Quartet. His huge knowledge and love of folklore have been shared in his collections of fairytales, Alan Garner’s Book of British Fairytales, A Bag of Moonshine and Fairytales of Gold. His later novels, Strandloper, Thursbitch and Boneland continue and deepen his exploration of the language, folklore and history of the particular patch of Cheshire that is his own ‘boneland’. This extraordinary body of work has fascinated and inspired readers and writers alike for more than fifty years.
Alan Garner turned 80 last year, and in celebration, many of the writers, artists, archaeologists and historians he has inspired are contributing pieces to this volume. Whether a literary essay or a personal response to Alan’s work, a memory of the time they first read his work, or a story about the man himself, each piece will be a tribute to his far-reaching influence. Edited by the acclaimed novelist and journalist, Erica Wagner, it will make a beautiful and important book for anyone who cares about the power of story to enrich and transform.
Confirmed contributors include: Margaret Atwood, David Almond, Dr Teresa Anderson (Jodrell Bank), Frank Cottrell Boyce, John Burnside, Susan Cooper, Amanda Craig, Maura Dooley, Helen Dunmore, Stephen Fry, Cornelia Funke, Neil Gaiman, Ben Haggarty, Nick Hennessey, Andrew Hodges, Tom Holland, Elizabeth Garner, Professor Ronald Hutton, Paul Kingsnorth, Olivia Laing, Katherine Langrish, Hugh Lupton, Robert Macfarlane, Helen Macdonald, Gregory Maguire, Bel Mooney, Professor Richard Morris, Neel Mukherjee, Richard Ovenden (Bodleian Library), Neil Philip, Professor John Prag, Philip Pullman, Ali Smith, Ian Thorpe (MGS), Salley Vickers, Rowan Williams, Michael Wood, Elizabeth Wein, Dougald Hine.
What am I pledging for?
As well as the receiving the book and enjoying the rewards listed opposite, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of First Light will be donated to the Blackden Trust, a charitable trust that works to preserve and share the ten thousand years of history, two ancient houses and countless stories that have emerged from the acre of Cheshire land which has sustained Alan Garner for almost sixty years and where all his work has originated.
[THIS INTERVIEW IS NOT AN EXTRACT FROM THE BOOK BUT OFFERS A GOOD INTRODUCTION TO ALAN’S WORK]
VALLEY OF THE LIVING DREAD
The stone is a mile from Thursbitch. A carved stone on the verge of a Cheshire lane, now perpendicular to the road but when Alan Garner first came across it -- bounding over the moor one Saturday in July, a little over 50 years ago -- it was flat against the bank, its back hidden. Garner saw:
HERE JOHN TUR
NER WAS CAST
AWAY IN A HEAVY
SNOW STORM IN
THE NIGHT IN OR
ABOUT THE YEAR
Poor John Turner, but not much more to it. Yet in clearing the grit to read the inscription, Garner realised that the back had been carved as well. As darkness began to fall, his arm hooked behind the stone, his fingers found another inscription:
THE PRINT OF A
WOMANS SHOE WAS
FOUND BY HIS SIDE
IN THE SNOW WERE
HE LAY DEAD
The "h" of "where", having been mistakenly left out by the carver, is neatly added below, as the mason would have been paid by the letter.
John Turner was a local man, a "jagger" or packman, his business in his time to transport goods out of Cheshire and back again. He would have known the road and the weather: why would he have died so close to home? On a grey September morning, as I stood by the stone with Garner's wife, Griselda, this mystery that half a century ago sparked his new novel had lost none of its power. Why this death? Why so memorialised and yet the date uncertain? Only the single print of a woman's shoe? Stone and fiction rang against each other in the air. Read more...
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