Alan Garner Margery Fisher - Essay

Margery Fisher

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Alan Garner's stories, The Stone Book and Tom Fobble's Day, are not poems but they have the overtones, the power to stir and engage the imagination, which we expect from poetry….

The simplicity of Tom Fobble's Day is a matter of uncomplicated syntax and a direct, concrete vocabulary. At the most obvious level this suits a story of one winter day in which a boy whose sledge is Tom Fobbled [a ritual borrowing] and then broken, visits his grandfather, the local "whitesmith and locksmith, and blacksmith too", and achieves a new and far better sledge, the last of the old man's handiwork. (p. 3207)

[The theme of the book is] the continuity of work, family and the land, seen (as in The Stone Book) through the traditional craft of a Cheshire countryman. Time is marked by the alternation of light and dark and by the old man's references (always introduced with the utmost naturalness) to the two wars he has fought in, the Boer War and World War I, contrasted with William's youthful acceptance of World War II as the source of interesting souvenirs after a raid….

The scene of Tom Fobble's Day is set, again with complete naturalness, in the course of narrative or conversation; boy and old man are seen in the darkness of Grandad's basement workshop or against snow and starlight. Dialogue is brief, subtly dialectal, wholly individual. The book is a total, triumphant unity of feeling and personal style. It is good cloth. Pull it how you will, it sustains the pull; it will be hard-wearing—in terms of reading, will sustain and reward many readings, each offering fresh insights. (p. 3208)

Margery Fisher, "Words in Their Best Order," in her Growing Point, Vol. 16, No. 5, November, 1977, pp. 3207-09.∗