Day 254: The Limits Of Enchantment

Graham Joyce, 1954-2014

September 11 b

If you’d asked me two years ago to name my favourite novel, the answer would have been easy. As of summer last year, though, I wasn’t so sure. Because for a long while my favourite novel was The Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce. Then a newcomer cam along to challenge its position: The Year Of The Ladybird, which just happened to by… Graham Joyce.

In between those two, Some Kind Of Fairytale also came close to claiming the top spot too.

Yes, I love the work of Graham Joyce. He combined vivid characters and stories with wit, an ability to create atmosphere with breathtaking economy and a love of folklore and English history into stories that often only played teasingly on the edges of fantasy. Even his completely non-fantasy novels – such as Smoking Poppy – still had an atmosphere of a dark fairytale and dream logic.

I used to wait eagerly for each new novel.

Now I will be waiting no more. For the most tragic of reasons.

Graham Joyce died on Tuesday afternoon, aged 59. He was diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma cancer last year, as anyone who read his brilliant blog will know. He wrote about his illness with typical humour and typical lyricism, so much so, you were convinced he was going to pull through; how could anybody this glass-half-full be taken from us?

But tragically he was, and it’s impossible not to read his final blog entry without – at the least – a lump in your throat. It’s quintessential Graham Joyce; the English countryside, nature, the power of dreams, a concern for others, and a dogmatic approach to his illness. All written with wonderfully evocative and poetic prose.

I interviewed Graham twice. He gave a good interview, full of soundbites, passion and humour. We froze together in a Victorian pumping station near his home for the sake of photograph, an event he later blogged about. He didn’t seem to mind the pain we put him through.

I will miss him. I will miss his novels. I will miss his blog. Although I didn’t know him well, his online presence made it feel like he genuinely appreciated each and every one of his followers.

I didn’t post this tribute yesterday, partly because I needed to gather my thoughts, partly so I could buy some indigo with which to dye these plimsolls. They actually look purple to me (even with a bit of Photoshopping to try to make them more indigo–y), but if you’ve read Graham Joyce’s Indigo you’ll appreciate the irony of that.

Also, ironically, I couldn’t find my copies of either The Tooth Fairy or The Year Of The Ladybird (a book I love so much because I can remember that year so well). But that’s because I’m always lending them out, trying to encourage other people to start reading Joyce’s work. I think Graham would approve of that reason for the absence.

See you tomorrow.

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