Monday, October 23, 2006

Christie Malry's Own Case Histories

Do you ever find clues, a sort of forensic trail in a novel which leads you to suspect what the author might have been reading when (s)he wrote it?

Obviously, I have an example.

I've just started reading Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson, and the book I read before that was Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry by BS Johnson - two books with little if any apparent similarity except that they are both good. Anyway, early on in the Atkinson book, we meet a character whose brother-in-law was a polar explorer, and I thought, hmm. Haven't I just read a book where the main character's father was a polar explorer? Oh yes, it was Christie Malry. Anyway, not a particularly interesting coincidence, so I didn't dwell on it and moved on. Then, only a few pages later in the Atkinson, I came across this: "Sometimes it seemed to him as if the entire world consisted of one accounting sheet - lost on one side, found on the other." Which really made me stop, because that's the basis of the entire plot of Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry (the double-entry in question refering to accountancy, and not to something you might have to search for on more dubiously-oriented websites.)

I don't think it's plagiarism and I don't think there's anything wrong with it. I just find it interesting (assuming that was the book she was reading, and not just two coincidences in a row) how little bits of the writer's real world can end up in their fiction.


  1. I found another parallel a few pages later, and now (perversely) I think it's all in my head. Maybe it's just that the *reader's* life echoes into what they are reading.

  2. I love Christy Malry - great book.

  3. Carry Me Down by MJ Hyland and Hide and Seek by Clare Sambrook both have child narrators who claim at the start to have incredibly good-looking parents - they are both Canongate books and Hide and Seek was published about 18 months prior to Carry Me Down, so I reckon MJ may well have received a copy of H&S as she was writing CMD. It may be a spurious connection, but I can't remember ever being under the illusion that my parents were beautiful - this surely isn't something that every child feels... I appreciate that this is a rather flimsy attempt to support Marie's conspiracy theory...

  4. The new Pernice Brothers CD has a track on it called B.S. Johnson.