Anthony Burgess, book reviewer extraordinaire, amongst many other things, dared to opine that book reviews have no effect. That cannot be true, for when I saw the (very favourable) review of the first volume of his confessions, Little Wilson and Big God in the Sydney Morning Herald, I took my brand new Commonwealth Bank key card from my brand new job and hopped on a train into the city for late night shopping on a Thursday, and headed to Abbey’s Bookshop where I splurged and bought it in hard cover. Of course, at that stage I would only have needed to see that it had been published to hunt it down, such was my delight in reading his work. (I also bought Paul Kennedy’s Rise and Fall of the Great Powers in hardback the same night, and over a quarter of a century later, I still haven’t finished it. Barely started it. Every time I see it I feel guilty. Lucky it is safely packed away in a box. Lord I must read at least 100 books a year, just read the bloody thing you idiot.) And the time I lucked upon a bookseller going out of business and picked up a brand new copy of Homage to Qwertyuiop half price. Both those books are so well thumbed now, read over and over. I enjoyed his prose even when I did not understand his vocabulary, I loved his opinionatedness even when I did not share his opinions, oh I don’t know, he was not scared of bigness of theme and language and passion, he told stories with confidence – I liked his voice, there, I’ve said it. Then of course he died and there was no more, and with the prodigious output stopped, memory drifts away, we all fade, and what we loved fades unless we consciously return to it (nostalgia and TV are the only true purposes of the internet). How delightful ( a word I seldom use) then to be flicking through last week’s Guardian and to come across this on Burgess. Read it. Read Earthly Powers. Read You’ve Had Your Time. I look forward to unpacking his books from my boxes when I return home (though with a careful eye out for the Kennedy, least it leap out and guilt me).
2 thoughts on “Little Wilson”
Good news is that the Anthony Burgess Foundation is preparing editions of Burgess’s uncollected short stories, his Collected Poems and his newly discovered dictionary of slang.
Horrorshow! Excellent news.