By Philip Tew
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Extra info for Jim Crace
I can do that. And I wrote Continent without any trouble at all. 25 Another key moment came with his father’s death in 1979. Crace records the preceding period and his loss in ‘Hearts of Oak:’ “Instead of tears I shed my first piece of fiction for many years: a monologue by a woman whose father is dying called ‘Seven Ages’. It was published by Craig Raine in Quarto and then broadcast on Radio 3, and marked the start of my migration from journalism to fiction . . ” (77–8) The understated, laconic political dismissal of Thatcher typifies Crace’s strong ideological awareness, a position that subtends much of his fiction, often obliquely or tangentially.
The narrator is a hippy living in a squat. He has been beaten up by yobs, and his girlfriend, Terry, consoles him by reading Shelley, her favourite poet after Sylvia Plath, both poetic passions very indicative of the tastes of this era. The narrator’s first person account bemoans his life, reflecting the disillusion of the late 1970s. The story presents in detail a social mood and a setting about which Crace seems less than sympathetic, a world of squatting, travellers, run-down post-war inner-city housing, and despair.
Aymer lay awake. He wasn’t any use on deck. His shoulder hurt from where he’d fallen from his bunk. The muscles in his throat and stomach ached from vomiting. His breath was foul. His temper, too. He should have travelled overland with the chap 1 27/7/06 8:16 am Exploring Craceland Page 31 31 company carts, he decided. He should have stayed at home instead of meddling abroad. (1–2) The use of abroad for anywhere beyond one’s immediate locality even in England establishes a sense of period, and contributes to the impression of a puritanical young trader found in a state of flux and transition, confronting the world beyond his ideological and comforting certainties.
Jim Crace by Philip Tew