If you haven’t read Berg, you should try it. Quin is often touted as an experimental writer, which speaks for the conservatism of much of publishing. Certainly, there is a startling quality to her work but it’s experimental in the way that life, and especially childhood, is experimental. I love the way she builds this story, assembles it piece by piece, like we are there, touching the things she describes. It’s such a physical experience. In a lot of writing, you can forget that the characters have bodies. Maybe we even do that with ourselves, as if we are avatars or just floating perspectives. At the same time, anxiety and uncertainty perpetuate the tale, so that all those solid things we have touched are not solid at all but are capable of shifting. I’m not sure how successful I was in Inventory, which is a book based on objects, but I wanted to examine that tension between the tangible and intangible that Quin does so well, and particularly the idea of entering a world already populated by others and trying/failing to make sense of it. I feel drawn to Quin, maybe because of overlaps in background (Catholic, working class etc), but she is always off in the distance.
First published in Nova, 1966. Collected in The Unmapped Country, And Other Stories, 2018. Available to read at Music and Literature, here