Elizabeth Riddell quipped about Kevin Brophy’s first novel, Getting Away With It (Wildgrass, 1982), that he hadn’t! I do not recall anything else of her review, but must confess that it also replaced my own estimation of the book. With hindsight, it’s clear that the novel has too many attributes to be disqualified, however wittily. Furthermore, Brophy’s new novel, Visions, recovers the best of his earlier novel’s operations, advancing them this time in an entirely coherent and often marvellous manner.
The everlasting dance of sounds and feelings and colours, the taste and scent of life, comes to us in its most explicit form in words. Even when Proust’s famous Madeleine led him back through its scents and associations in search of a time that was lost, he followed its tracks through words that brought back the images of the past and tied them down into clear grammatical patterns of form and relationship. Because language teaches us how to think and feel and see it is always political. The speaker and the writer impose on us patterns which either reinforce or subvert established power. It is no accident that a failed conservative businessman and politician has been able to recover his fortunes by writing a political thriller, or that Mrs Thatcher has now engaged him on the task of selling her politics of destruction to a wary electorate. The words create the reality.