As I posted recently, I’ve been looking at the writer BS Johnson, reading his novel Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry and Johnathon Coe‘s biography Like a Fiery Elephant. The biography is excellent so far, making Johnson sound like a character from a novel (which in some ways he was…), as well as raising questions about the genre of literary biography.
One sign of a good book is that it leads to other interesting things, and Coe’s biography led me to the writer Ann Quin.
Quin died the same year as BS Johnson. She came from Brighton, growing up in Lewes Crescent, and committed suicide weeks before Johnson himself, swimming out to sea off the Palace Pier.
I found a long article including some exciting excerpts from Quin’s work. It points out "The University of Sussex library contains none of her books", which remains the case, despite recent re-releases of her work.
The article also quotes a review stating that her book Three is "exquisitely written from the first page to the last. If you don’t read it then you’re not interested in the present and possible future of the English novel". I hope it’s still as good now as it seemed to be then.
I’m not the only person thinking about Ann Quin, as Lee Rourke wrote an an article on her for the Guardian website:
"Berg is a beautiful novel: it is dark, esoteric, haunting – sometimes disturbing. It is saturated with detail, particulars and minutiae. A novel of voices and voice. The best novel ever set in Brighton in my opinion – forget Patrick Hamilton (as splendid as he is), Ann Quin’s Berg is the real deal. It cuts through the superfluous like acid and marvels in the seamier mystery all our seaside towns, and especially Brighton, keep hidden. For an insight into what British literary fiction could have been if we’d only have listened, I’d start with Berg by Ann Quin every time."