INTERVIEW: Benjamin Myers | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Set in the hot, droughty summer of 1989, Benjamin Myers’ new novel The Perfect Golden Circle follows two men as they spend summer nights creating crop circles together. It’s richly and beautifully written, pulling the reader along in a gentle flow of humour and anger, musings and creativity, with layers that even the author is still discovering.

I thought I was writing a book about crop circles,” Durham-born Myers says, “but it’s really about the people who make them and the landscape at night, and it’s about class and how we treat the landscape, and the trauma of war as experienced by one of the characters. It’s only now that the book’s coming out that I’m starting to realise what it’s actually about.”

Though he researched crop circles, Myers knew he didn’t want to “go down the fantastical route” of aliens and conspiracy theories when writing about them: “What’s fantastic to me is the idea that two men, in this case, would dedicate so much of their lives to creating these huge scale artworks. I don’t think crop circles have been fully appreciated as the sort of landscape art that they were at the time. Also, what interested me was the fact that there’s no ego involved. The power of the art is that we don’t know who did them. Even Banksy signs his art works.”

I like the idea of trespass; I like the rebel nature of what people who make crop circles did. It’s a celebration of that

As with Myers’ other books, relationship with the land is an important theme, but he’s stepped away from the harsh and violent depictions of landscape that are the hallmark of his earlier books. The Perfect Golden Circle, like The Offing before it, is suffused with warmth: “I don’t think just to write dark, brutal books diminishes what you do, because there’s sides to everything – to people and to life and to the landscape as well. My earlier works were about the harshness and brutality of the landscape… but there’s also something really uplifting and inspiring about it. I think a lot of people discovered that during the lockdown: it’s free, and it’s on our doorsteps.”

Myers is keen to point out that the The Perfect Golden Circle is not a lockdown novel. The idea for it arrived fully formed in 2019. “[I was struggling with] a low spell of anxiety and exhaustion, and just burnout, I think. I went up to Durham and I walked out into a field of crops near the housing estate where I grew up, and in 10 seconds, I just had this idea.” He was in a bad state – “the last thing I wanted to do was write” – but he completed the first draft the day before the first lockdown.

Still, the finished book encapsulates a lot of mid- and post-lockdown feeling, with the note-perfect descriptions of anxiety and of having one’s personal space or peace invaded by others. It also highlights something that was particularly critical during lockdown: trespassing and people’s access to green space.

I like the idea of trespass,” says Myers, “and it raises questions as to who owns the land and what rights we have as non-landowners. Most of Britain is owned by aristocrats and corporations and the Crown, so I like the rebel nature of what people who make crop circles did, really. It’s a celebration of that.”

The Perfect Golden Circle by Benjamin Myers is published via Bloomsbury on 12th May. Hear more about Benjamin Myers’ creative process in Fran Harvey’s My Writing Life podcast on our Spotify channel



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