Review of Evie and Guy by Dan Holloway

This is neither snakeoil nor pretension, it’s a genuine attempt to open the door on questions of narrative, meaning, and the functions of language and communication. It’s also about creating one’s own meaning through a narrative of numbers. It’s a thinking person’s book.  The author gives an explanation of his intention at the beginning  and the rest is up to you, the reader.  You choose the journey you take and how deeply you engage with the work.

Why only numbers? For me the power of the numbers was primarily because it makes the reader CREATE their own narrative out of the text. It’s a way of showing the ‘space’ in a text and allowing the reader to create their own meaning.  You have to think, you have to be creative or it will remain meaningless to you.

Being numerosceptical at first I was a bit overwhelmed. I also questioned reducing the ‘relationship’ / human experience/emotion to masturbatory moments – but actually the longer I thought about that the more answers I came up with. And that is the power of this book. It makes you think.  I’m not sure it was the numbers themselves that made me think, but it was what they represented. But isn’t this like words?  It’s not the words themselves, it’s the meanings behind the words, the way they combine together, the subtext, which makes a novel a valuable experience for the mind. Same here. But the numbers are a different language. Several different languages with several layers of meaning attributable.

Obviously you have to buy into the idea that this is doing something – and doing something different – and not sneer at it.  This is a thinking person’s book. It’s not going to be for everyone, but then it’s not on the shelves at Tesco is it? It’s not trying to be something it’s not, it is offering the reader an insight into the creative narrative process – offering them the chance to be a writer if you like, to create their own meaning, to find their own story.

I think it’s about multiplicity of meaning and infinite choices.  It’s not about numbers at all. For me. But then I don’t like numbers.  I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of ‘conceptual’ writing actually but the more I think about the author’s intention the better I like the whole thing.

Shall I say I thought it was ‘better than Moby Dick.’  Well, I’ve never read Moby Dick, my eyes glaze over on page 10.  But Evie and Guy got me thinking, got me being creative, got me engaging and finding new and innovative ways to find a journey through the numbers.

I decided to find my own route. Experiment. Here’s how I did it.  I got a Kobo and an ipad. I put them side by side. On one I had Evie and on the other Guy. And I worked through the years to see where the points of connection were – when things ‘happened’ and when they didn’t. When numbers collided and when they didn’t.  And what did I find from this? Well, that I could build up a picture for myself of what the patterns might be, draw my own conclusions or inferences. Think about times when they might have been in a relationship, out of relationships and of course I found out when both of them died. Or I believe I did.  I only found one moment of complete ‘union’ as such but I have already confessed to being a bit numerophobic and I didn’t look as deeply into the ‘patterns’ as I might. But you could. You could spend a long time pondering each year, working things into the dates. The author gives you licence and opportunity to spend as much or as little time on the actual text as you like – for me, I used it simply as a springboard into my own creative thoughts about these two characters – others might use the numbers themselves as more central to the creation.  It’s completely the reader’s choice. And it’s quite interesting how you can build a huge narrative out of something so seemingly incomprehensible. If you want to.

In one sense it’s akin to looking at a potshard and building a civilisation, but for me, more than anything it’s the bravery and innovativeness of the thought process that even wants to try and offer a reader a new kind of experience which is this novel’s winning feature. It’s not a partnership as such but gives the reader an active role in the process of narrative creation. That’s quite a gift from a writer to a reader. And for me it is the real strength of this book.  You know what – this book may on one level be ‘about’ masturbation but it isn’t just wanking! Anyone who thinks it is has seriously missed the point.


Cally Phillips reviews for Reading Between the Lines smallREADING


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