visit www.enitharmon.co.uk/new to buy and view cover
London Magazine Editions, 2002, £15
ISBN 0 9043888 91 3
‘Funny, self-aware and beedy-eyed, Augustus Young is a chronicler of rare originality and wit. His episodic approach gives his writing a briskness and lightness of touch lacking in the more portentous memoir: his meeting with Basil Bunting is a comic masterpiece, essential to any future collection of literary anecdotes.’
It’s 1967. Augustus Young is newly arrived in London with dubious credentials as a ‘published poet’. But he has also a science degree and a career to make. In the first part of Light Years he uses his fledgling skills as a writer to introduce us to his vision of ‘Living in England’ – suburban semis, the world of work and a backdrop of contemporary events. Memories of growing up in Ireland undertow his progress.
The action moves to 1969. Augustus is now leading ‘The Bohemian Life’. Poetry is his thing and from his bedsit in Notting Hill he launches himself into a life dedicated to Art and self-advancement. McFee, landlord and philosopher, is his Mephisto. We meet the literary world, chic and not so chic, delve into the mysteries that lurk behind curtained urban living, and encounter Alma, a publisher’s assistant with a secret sorrow. Ireland seems a distant place as Augustus rises up the poetical pecking order (minder to a famous poet, invitee to fashionable events). But in the end reason, Kierkegaard and disenchantment with his own poetry prevail and he decides to make himself a ‘moderately useful life’ elsewhere.
The final section, ‘Requiescat in Pace’. returns to Ireland. Childhood events, family legends and memories are explored as Augustus, now writing in his own persona, comes to the realisation that if memory is the warden of the brain, escaping from its clutches is impossible. Using a diversity of styles and idioms, Light Years is a masterly re-enactment of the author’s literary development.
Augustus Young was born in Cork, Ireland in 1943 and educated at the universities of Cork, Dundee and London. As an epidemiologist he has published many scientific papers and contributed to textbooks. He has also published seven volumes of poetry, most recently Lightning in Low Places (Cranagh Press, 2000). His prose and poetry appears in anthologies and journals in Ireland, America and Britain. His most recent full-length publication is Lampion and His Bandits: Literature of the Cordel in Brazil (Menard Press, 1994). Extracts from Light Years were published in London Magazine, Arete, Cyphers, Books Ireland, Sniper Logic and The Kinsale Anthology.