Tuesday, 17 November 2009


My obituary of Donald Harington, whom Entertainment Weekly called the best unknown novelist in America, is in today's Guardian; you can link to it here. A couple of qualifiers have been lost in the cutting process: when I compared him to Faulkner I pointed out the way Faulkner used his fictional geography to explore deep within the character of the south, where Harington used his Stay More to move outward, to wider issues. Similarly, I mentioned the awards Harington won as a southern writer to belie his own disavowal of regional status; despite his best efforts, he was always going to be cherished by the area that provided him with his backdrop and his fictional tools.

Also cut was mention of his second Stay More novel, Some Other Place, The Right Place (1972), which was made into an interesting looking film called Return (1985) with Frederic Forrest and Anne Francis. Harington and John Irving share some characteristics, one of which is the sense of authorial omniscience, though Irving is more 19th century, while Harington is more like the 18th,
although sometimes cinsciously post-modern, like the John Barth of The Sot Weed Factor or Giles Goat Boy perhaps. His work was always too unique to reach wide popularity, but since Toby Press is keeping all his books in print, he's now easier to discover than ever.

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