The surface narrative takes place in and around the walled cathedral city of Axton, and deals with the adventures of the boy Kinch, his friend Pigeon and the loner Brownie over a seven-day period. As they each struggle through a sub-universe of violence, farce and melodrama, their received ideas of cognition, motive and memory are teased apart to expose the intricately redemptive epiphanies of the material world.
The form and distinctive appearance of KINCH are borrowed from the rhythms, chiaroscuros and cadences of painting and music, while the prose itself is intended to double as agent-avatar for the elusive nature of perception. One of the book’s more important subtextual motifs lies in its sardonic critique of the accepted notions of Literary Genre. An amused disdain for the desultory state of contemporary fiction, whether ‘pulp’ or ‘literary’, is also never far below the surface.
The author regards the great and historic literary project of ‘The Novel’ to be exhausted, on its knees, and as near death as makes no difference. The use of the word ‘antinovel’ to describe his fiction may not be ideal, but it does express his distaste for the flabbiness of current attitudes to the cliché-encrusted form, and it also suggests those elements of criticism which his fiction contains.
The urban and rural settings of the work are drawn from the author’s own experiences. The city of Axton, for example, is a patchily distorted amalgam of the small Oxfordshire town of Watlington, where he spent his adolescence, and of Oxford itself, where he was mainly educated. Substantial research was, with not a little relish, carried out in ‘enemy territory’, firstly within the walls of St Albans Cathedral and secondly aboard the decommissioned cruiser HMS Belfast.
Laurie adds that any resemblance between the human characters in the story and any real persons, either living or dead, is entirely serendipitous.
a tally of unravellings