The perfect golden circle A novel

Benjamin Myers, 1976-

Book - 2022

In 1989 rural England, two very different men undertake an extraordinary project, forming crop circles in elaborate and mysterious patterns, but when their work attracts media attention and the authorities, they must race to finish the most stunning and original crop circle ever conceived.

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Brooklyn : Melville House [2022]
Main Author
Benjamin Myers, 1976- (author)
Physical Description
211 pages ; 24 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Myers' sumptuous novel focuses on an odd couple, Redbone, an itinerant dreamer and antiestablishment drifter who lives in a van, and Ivan Calvert, who bears the physical and mental scars of serving in the special forces during the Falklands War. As in his last novel, The Offing (2019), the events take place over a single summer, here in 1989, and Redbone and Calvert do what they have done in previous summers, make crop circles of increasingly elaborate design in fields in southwest England. They are utterly dedicated to the practice, at the expense of all other things, and delight in both the noble silliness of their works and the conspiracies they inspire. While exploring many bleak topics--such as the pointlessness of war, the cruelty of Thatcher's Britain, and the ecological impact of industrialization--the novel is also full of evocative and awe-inspiring descriptions of the British countryside. Working tirelessly most weekends, the men create increasingly incredible designs that draw ever more attention from the global media, and in the process their touching friendship draws ever closer. Loosely based on real figures, this brilliant, funny, and delightful novel is about misfits finding purpose, and the redemptive power of artistic expression even in the bleakest of circumstances.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this slight, low-key outing, Myers (The Gallows Pole) chronicles the efforts of two friends who conspire to make crop circles in Southern England in 1989. The empathetic Redbone and the traumatized Calvert, whose face is scarred, aim to create something worthy of a folk myth to enrich their otherwise unfulfilling lives as they work up to "The Big One," the Honeycomb Double Helix. After their crop circles hit the news, some folks wonder if they were made by aliens. Myers keenly observes the men's distant yet intimate friendship and working relationship as they abort one crop circle design and risk being caught creating another. They grapple with rain, drought, and fire, and even discuss climate change. The men also risk exposure: first by a strange old woman who lost her dog, then with Earl William Lachlan Alexander Bruce Lascar of Winchem. There are some clever descriptive passages and phrases--Calvert's cooking "does not eschew palatability for sustenance's sake"--and some nice imagery, and though the conversations between the two protagonists are illuminating, they don't quite add up to a satisfying narrative. In the end, the meditative quest lands as too meek. Agent: Jessica Woollard/David Higham Assoc. (May.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A quiet, peculiar, and utterly charming novel about...crop circles. Myers' new book--brief though it is--contains a buzzing, busy multitude. It's part Künstlerroman, part rural idyll, part environmental alarm, part picaresque about two outcasts, part philosophical novel. The setting is summer 1989, in southern England, and two men are embarking again on--trying to perfect--the work they began the summer before. Amid strict secrecy, and in accordance with an elaborate set of rules they've developed to keep themselves safe and anonymous, they steal off at sunset in a battered camper van, park along a verge, walk at least one mile to a field they have identified and scouted, and spend the long summer dark meticulously creating ever larger, ever more elaborate designs (all without breaking the stalks of wheat or rapeseed, so as to be committing acts of art and not vandalism, addition and not subtraction). The two men are Calvert, an anxious ex-soldier who wears dark glasses even at night to protect his eyes and his scars, and his friend Redbone, imaginative, unpredictable, and cheerful. The book consists of a brief chronicle of each of their summer exploits in the field, one by one, with quick news breaks between to record their rising fame as their work garners attention from tabloids, UFO enthusiasts, landowners, and others taken by this mysterious, gigantic-scale environmental art. They are moving always toward what they know will be their end-of-summer culmination, the Honeycomb Double Helix. Myers' newest is a lyrical novel, leisurely of pace and rich in nuance, that rewards the reader who slows to its rhythms. An odd and winsome pleasure: a novel of friendship, collaboration, and environmental guerrilla art. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Southern England 1989 There are still fields in England so vast that you can walk alongside them or across them - or through them - for an hour or more and feel like you have not moved an inch. There are fields so vast and remote that you can wander to their very centre and scream and bellow and laugh and dance, and much more besides, and no one but the mice and the crows will hear you. There are fields that are near to nowhere, fields bigger than villages. Fields that feed hundreds of people and accommodate thousands of co-existing creatures and species, from the tiniest tick to the largest deer. Once, grey wolves and brown bears stalked the shrinking copses that grow at their fringes and then tentatively stepped out into the open fields too, but no more; the threat of their size meant they were hunted to extinction long ago. And there are fields full of stories, century upon century of stories laid over one another, just as the bones of those who once turned and tilled the land and cultivated and harvested the crops, and shared their stories too, now lie rotting deep in the rich soil of a singular cemetery called England. Into these fields reach the roots of an island. They reach and cling for meaning, for understanding. They are part of the story that has no ending. Because the fields belong to everyone equally - past, present and future. And out in the fields on a still summer's night, when the sky is an upturned mirror and the young crops harbour legions of creatures awaiting the totality of the moon's instruction, a light breeze lifts, causing a sea of platinum needles to shimmer, and strange things happen. Alton Kellett Pathway On this particular night the moon is a signet ring held in soft wax and pressed to the black page of the sullen sky. On the signet ring is a face, a fat face, the face of the moon, with the butterball cheeks of a cherub. It purses its pale lips and from high up above offers an enigmatic smile upon the field of incipient wheat. One of the men stands looking at it for a lingering moment and tries to remember the names given to the different maria - those wide areas of the moon that look like seas, but which are in fact vast waterless plains of molten rock. The Sea of Tranquillity is the one most people know. But there are more, many more, and together they form a type of poetry centred around the theme of deep and unending desolation. The Sea of Fecundity. The Sea of Cleverness. The Sea of Crises. The Sea of Nectar. He whispers the words just loud enough for them to become real. He wraps his tongue around them, and they become poetry in his mouth. There are, of course, he thinks, the other features of the moon's surface too, such as its mountains and valleys, its craters, marshes and bays. As a boy he knew the names of so many of these different topographical lunar elements, and in fact kept a notebook in which he jotted them down each time he learned a new one. The Bay of Rainbows. The Marsh of Sleep. The Land of Sterility. The Lake of Death. Licking dirt-dry lips, he repeats them to himself now in a coarse whisper. There were the names of the constellations too, all but the most obvious of which are now forgotten, for time has passed and his memory has become preoccupied with other things, like the names of girls and songs, and snatched recollections of people and places and parties. New memories have replaced old ones; memories of long warm days of endless potential and the occasional dire night folded shivering and slowly sobering in a police cell. His mind is cluttered with recollections of rhapsodic birdsong and paintings he has done and rivers he has swum; it is a photograph album containing fading pictures of roadsides he has parked up by and made a home from, and woodlands he has wandered, and also made a home from. There are images of bonfires and bottles of home brew in there. People and places, friends and faces. Long nights filled with laughter and fleeting scenes of what at the time felt like a form of madness, and surely was. As a younger man - before he knew himself better - he went through a phase of walking around the village in a cape with the image of a large eyeball stitched upon it. Several of his haircuts were legendary. These are the thoughts that replace the names he carefully wrote down and which are consigned to an old notebook long since lost. He remembers the bad things too: fist fights and heartbreak, broken bottles, swinging truncheons and a litany of injustices. He remembers all that. As a boy his daydreaming mind was a nest of twinkling trinkets, and though recent memories continue to replace old ones, each day bringing a new delivery of things to be processed, the strongest and most significant endure. His name is Redbone. Sensing a distance growing behind him, the other man, whose name is Calvert, stops and turns back to face his friend, who he sees, not for the first time, is standing waist-deep in the young crop, gazing at the cloudless firmament. He allows him half a minute and then gives a short, sharp whistle so accurately delivered that it is as perfect a part of the settling night's soundtrack as an owl hoot or the curdling screech of distant mating foxes. It is practised, a sound that belongs. It fits flush into the jigsaw puzzle of their endeavour. Calvert is wearing sunglasses. The lenses are as dark as burned-out stars drifting through infinite time and space, vortices of nothingness. A brief flash of white light - the same flash that preceded an explosion that was so sudden and so loud he still hears it now, years later, in the wind and sirens and the slamming of car doors and ice cream van music, even in the laughter of carefree children running down the street on uncertain legs - has left him with ocular sensitivity. The sunglasses never leave his face, even at night. They hide the truth of a person, and he likes that too. Redbone often thinks that were his friend to remove his sunglasses there would be another pair of sunglasses underneath, and then beneath those a third pair, with some eyes painted onto them. Beneath that, who knows. Were he asked, Calvert might reply that he sees and feels life as a slug, a seagull or a sheep might: it is simply something that is happening now. Existence is simply there, like a lightbulb or a downpour, until it isn't, experience occurs until it doesn't, and the dark-tint of his reality is precisely that: his . There are reasons he feels this way. Very specific reasons. Moonstruck and drifting through memory, at the sound of the whistle Redbone comes back into being with a turning of an unwashed head, and he sees Calvert and then continues to walk slowly towards him. He moves in no hurry; he rarely does. He likes to let the globe move beneath his feet and do the work for him. Though keen to press on, Calvert, whose natural pace in all areas of his life is a strident and purposeful march, waits for him. In the milk-coloured lunar light Redbone looks at his friend as he approaches him and sees the streak of scarring that runs like an exposed bone along his jawline, then up into a tightly twisted knot of tissue across his cheek and underneath one shaded lens, to just beneath his hidden eye. Tonight it appears lustrously silver; ornate and baroque, almost, as exotic as the surface of the moon itself. It makes Redbone think of the theatrical half-mask worn by a character in a musical he has never seen. Calvert also wears a beard. The block of ragged hair that hangs like a bib is another obstacle, a barrier, a hurdle that the world must climb over or look beyond in order to reach the man beneath it. The beard is so big and so thick that it appears as if it might be on loan from the props department of a film about gold prospectors and trappers sporting beaver-skin hats. The beard is so big and so thick that Calvert's nose looks like a featherless newborn bird in the nest of his face, or perhaps a dormant penis. Together with the sunglasses it makes for a formidable and near impenetrable visual combination, as if Calvert were a man in search of a motorcycle that he parked three days ago. His is a face that could win poker tournaments. Redbone does not recall his friend without the scar, without the sunglasses, without the beard; they are all as much a part of him as the unspoken traumas that only very occasionally flash like that brief burst of white light in the wet blackness of his hidden eyes. For Calvert is a human cactus, spiky and self-contained. He draws upon a deep well of resources. *** Calvert carries the big post over one shoulder and the longer coil of rope over the other while Redbone has the short planks and the battered old bait bag containing tent pegs, headtorches, batteries, biscuits, apples, water. When his friend has nearly reached him, Calvert continues along what remains of a tractor path that runs through the wheat crop. There is still a slight chill in the air but he is glad that the ground is dry. If they tread lightly they will leave no footprints. This is important. They will leave no trace. Winter is forgotten now and spring is advancing at speed, while summer lurks not far beyond the swollen moment, a cold-blooded lizard-skinned beast sitting deep in the ancient dust of an ancient island. Soon it will waken. As they follow the gentle decline down towards what they perceive to be the centre of this great sloping plain of crops, Redbone runs his free hand across the top of the wheat and feels the adolescent green bristles tickle his rough palms. They are as coarse as horsehair, as long as a feral cat's whiskers. He takes a head between thumb and forefinger and plucks it in a twisting motion. The grain has a budding stiffness to it as he grinds it in his hand, his palm acting as both fleshy pestle and clammy mortar, yet it holds its shape. No seeds come loose. Patiently awaiting long unbroken bursts of sunshine to give it life, the head of wheat is still in the early days of cultivation and has not yet reached its ultimate form. For now the produce is sun-starved and has a whole season ahead of it, as do the men. It is still green, as are the men. Calvert walks briskly and with purpose. Two slow dark seasons of planning in quiet and cramped dom­­estic anticipation in front of a fire have made him more focused than ever, and he is doing his best not to let his impatience overwhelm the task at hand. It is a trait that made him so effective in the Forces, yet which occasionally set him at odds with the rest of the team. Redbone is still expected to keep pace and has long since learned that to protest against it is futile. Suddenly Calvert stops and raises a hand. A military signal. Twenty paces behind him, Redbone stops too. Calvert drops to a crouch in the crop. Redbone does too. They wait like this in the stone-grit silence for a full minute, then two. Except the night isn't entirely silent - it isn't silent at all - because in their motionless moments they both tune in to the sounds around them just as they did when they were children tuning in to radios held steady beneath the hot-breath darkness of their duvets. Close by they can detect the rustling and skittering of industrious creatures at work - field mice, mainly, though they know that hedgehogs, badgers, rabbits and hares are out here too. And foxes, certainly, each night sneaking to snatch a rabbit or raid a chicken coop on one of the many old farms that demarcate the different acreages, and whose names Calvert has come to learn by rote during his winter's forensic research. Places like Leighton Latimer, Grey Bull Pastures or the wonderfully droll Hill End Hill. The slightest breeze runs through the heads of wheat again; later in the season they will rattle like percussion, but for now they still carry within them moisture rising from the soil through the nodal cavities of the lower parts of their stalks, so it is a softer, greener breeze that the two men hear as it wends through the burgeoning crop. Each young green head is sticky to the touch. These are their salad days. Somewhere far above can be heard the afterthought of an aeroplane embarking upon a night flight to a faraway country, another land, a land overseas, with its own crops and creatures, its own strange men with their own strange ways. Calvert turns his head to Redbone, nods, and then they slowly stand. Two curled fingers intimate that they should continue onwards, so Redbone shifts the bag on his back and readjusts the short planks, and then follows his friend as he continues to silently recite the names of the areas of the moon left long behind him in the swirling litter of childhood memory. Excerpted from The Perfect Golden Circle by Benjamin Myers All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.