Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Delicate Shoreline Beckons Us - Jonathan Wood

I have been a keen reader and admirer of the writings of Jonathan Wood for over thirty years. At first these appeared only in fleeting journals, booklets and obscure ephemera, samizdats of the spirit which insinuated themselves through the letterbox on unsuspected days, and were always a joy to receive.

Imbued with the character of Machen, Blackwood and other mages of the arcane, each text was incantatory, visionary, elliptical, celebrating either the mysteries of London or the lost arcadia of the countryside. Always though there was also a remarkable original imagination in play, the sort that could redraw part of the London Underground map as the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Change here for Malkuth.

More recently, his work has begun to appear in limited edition volumes, still often rare and elusive. I was therefore pleased and honoured to be asked to write an introduction to the latest of these, which has just been announced by Zagava.

The Delicate Shoreline Beckons Us by Jonathan Wood has as its locale a run-down English seaside town, and certainly gives Graham Greene and Patrick Hamilton a run for their money in its evocation of these seedy, salt-bitten resorts. This deeply macabre, unflinching work offers us, as I outline in the introduction:

'An unholy pageant enacted among the slot machines, the muggy cafes, the shuttered shops, the dripping ironwork benches on the deserted promenade . . . The suspicion of a sordid sorcery is everywhere. It’s in the brassy beer, that English elixir, and the dank veil of the grey rain. You see it in the blank stare of the boarding-house windows. Even if there were sandcastles they would be eerily ruinous. With a bleak gaze and a relentless persistence, the author offer us a lavish anti-brochure, a tourist guide to Chorazin, a wish-you-were-here for your worst enemy. The arcane in the arcade, the end of the world at the end of the pier. From Netherwood to the Netherworld.'

The book is available in editions to suit both keen readers and collectors of fine editions, in paperback, numbered hardback and de luxe lettered editions. So you can read it on the tube, keeping a wary eye on the stations, or peruse it in your private library, wearing white gloves. It doesn't matter: whichever you choose, the words will get you.

Mark Valentine

1 comment:

  1. Dear Mark,

    Thank you for introducing my new novella to an unsuspecting public. I am exceptionally grateful both to you and Jonas Ploeger in so many ways. I hope readers will travel with the narrative and alight safely at their desired destination, if that is their desire.

    I have also written an experimental time-piece on the 'true' and imagined genesis of The Delicate Shoreline Beckons Us, called 'Out of Nowhere'. It will appear in issue two of Infra-Noir, co-edited by Alcebiades Diniz Miguel and published by Zagava, during this year.

    All ideal 'holiday' reading as the salt breezes begin to bother the sea front and the shadows grow ever longer and the gnawing desire for a pint grows ever more urgent.

    Aye thenk yew

    Best wishes
    Jonathan Wood