Eva Figes Edwin Morgan - Essay

Edwin Morgan

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[B] is in many ways compelling and distinctive, yet it manipulates the reader's uncertainties to the point where he may suspect that the pleasures of manipulation have outrun the idea of relevance to a theme. Not that the theme invites anything simplistic. A successful but unhappy and increasingly alienated writer called Beard is writing a book about an unsuccessful writer called B. whom he has apparently (though not certainly) known and who is now dead. The reader's initial suspicion is that B. is a projection or alter ego of Beard, and the book does not dismiss this suspicion, making Beard say indeed at one point: 'I seemed to be acquiring a remarkable resemblance to my own character, B.' Although B. is fictionalised as having his own way of life, quite different from that of Beard, and although they meet and talk together as separate persons, the reader's difficulty is that the evidence is presented by Beard himself. Furthermore, he is going through a nervous crisis—his first wife dies, his second wife leaves him, his son has no contact with him, and although he cannot stop writing he admits his 'vision had shrunk'—so that reality and fantasy, past and present, are shown as overlapping and sometimes mixing, and episodes are repeated in slightly different form as they might do in dream or nightmare.

Edwin Morgan, "Empty-Hearted Labyrinths," in The Listener, Vol. 87, No. 2243, March 23, 1972, p. 393.∗