Friday, August 26, 2016

Alan Garner on Writing

I recently watched the DVDs of the 1969-70 Granada series The Owl Service, scripted by Alan Garner himself.  I can't say that I enjoyed it any more than the book, which I found rather a muddle of interesting ingredients and annoying characters. One of the points for me to watch the series was that most of it was filmed at Poulton Hall, the home of Roger Lancelyn Green (1918-1987), the friend and biographer of C.S. Lewis, and the author of many books for children and about children's writers. Still, in the end, I think I would have preferred a documentary about Poulton Hall to the rather incoherent and (it must be admitted) silly story-line of The Owl Service.

Included in the DVDs with the series is another 25 minute program, Celebration: Alan GarnerThe Edge of the Ceiling (1980), which is a documentary about, and starring, Garner himself.  This was far more interesting than The Owl Service.  It makes you realize just how personally absorbed Garner is, and why his newer books have progressively retreated from accessibility for the last forty-odd years. Garner had some quite interesting observations, a few of which I jotted down and share here:

"I use mythology and folklorewhen I use itnot to deflect the attention away from reality but to focus the attention of the reader on the reality behind apparent reality, the reality behind the three dimensional world. Because it was that reality that was real for me in childhood."

"And so I don't make any excuses whatsoever for drawing on fantastic materials to make comments seriously about modern life."

"For me, a writer is somebody who lives in their own life, their own investigation of what it's all about. They are their own scientist in their own laboratory, and that laboratory is themself. The writer is his own laboratory." 


  1. I am an admirer of Alan Garner's writings, and think him superior to the majority of the run-of-the-mill authors of fantastic fiction today; Garner writes honestly, and, despite his rather superficial guise as a ''children's author'', carries a great deal of adult melancholy weight, like ancient stones on a pilgrim's back.

  2. I don't know that I disagree with you all that much. I find Garner's work interesting and ambitious, even if I don't find it all that successful. I do wish that he would have jettisoned the use of children as characters altogether and used adults instead.