A profligacy of riches
Any new edition of Granta is a pleasure. This one, Granta 119 (Britain), is a revelation. Published, with a wry, almost diabolic sense of humour to coincide with the celebration of the Queen’s diamond jubilee, the outstanding cover designed by Paul Smith sets the tone.
A tea cup of finest china, chipped, its broken handle lying alongside, makes as clear a statement of intent as any reader might want. ‘Broken Britain?’ is a phrase used (and a question asked) on the back cover, on which the blurb for the edition ends with the sentence, ‘There is no place like it’.
There is no place like it. And the tone set by the cover never lets up through the 287 pages of the new issue. A profligacy of riches, Granta 119 offers the one problem: it is hard to decide which piece alone is most worth the price of admission. There simply are too many of them.
The issue opens with Gary Younge’s pared-down, perceptive memoir about Stevenage, training a searchlight on a vanished England, and an England that has taken its place. Mark Haddon’s disquieting piece, The Gun (like several others in the issue, excerpted from a novel in progress), made me want Haddon to finish the book sooner than he possibly can. Sam Byers is a terrific discovery. Jon McGregor is at his best in a masterful manipulation of point of view in a story that explores the aftermath of the disappearance of a little girl. Rachel Seiffert and the Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa make stellar contributions. And the poetry and photographs are worth returning to over and over again.
Here is proof again that as a self-professed magazine of new writing, Granta is without peer. I devoured the latest issue. And felt sorry that it was over so quickly.