Saturday, May 14, 2011
Is it life that imitates art or art that imitates life?
Richard Collins new book, The Quality of Light [the link is to Amazon but they have the wrong cover!], out today, is his third novel, written three years ago, three years after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
This beautiful, poignant work is constructed ingenuously around events that happen over six days both currently and six years previously.
It is about the effect of cities upon people, and how love can echo and change over time, constricted by the vagaries of coincidence and geography.
In fact, its original title was to have been Psychogeography for Beginners, but its final title is much more evocative.
One of the main characters, Michael, also suffers from Parkinson's. Richard writes obliquely and modestly about the effect it has on people through Michael's experience of it, although this is by no means a theme of the novel.
It is an insidious and progressive disease which punishes its victim with intermittent and unpredictable lashes.
Richard bravely fights the disease by remaining as active as possible, often cycling 40 miles in a day or walking up a mountain, yet on other occasions he can be stricken down so badly that he can't even get on a bus or stand up.
He is aware that if Waterstones were to offer him a signing, as they had before, he would have to decline, because he couldn't be confident that he could actually control his hand. I took him my copy to sign but had to leave it there until a moment arrived when it became possible for him to do so.
I love Richard dearly, he's one of my best friends. This deserves to be as much a success as his first, The Land as Viewed from the Sea, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread first novel award.