Benjamin Myers's latest novel, The Perfect Golden Circle, is every bit as idiosyncratic as its subject matter, combining lyricism with comedy and themes that range from warfare and environmental calamity to hope and healing...It centres on the creators of the crop circles, quintessential odd couple Redbone and Calvert...Like the characters in the author’s previous work, which spans historical fiction and rural noir, and includes the 2021 short story collection Male Tears, these men are outsiders...While Redbone lives in an old camper van, is immersed in the crust punk scene and prone to visions hallucinogenic and otherwise, Calvert is a solitary SAS veteran, battle scarred inwardly as well as outwardly from his service in the Falklands...Bathed in moonlight, Myers’s land thrums with more ancient reverberations, too...There is, he writes, 'an under-England, a chthonic place of hidden rivers and buried relics', of the bones of extinct animals and battle-slain bodies...His main characters are acutely aware of it – their industry, it’s hinted, flows from it – and the humbling sense of perspective this confers is balm and inspiration...The novel’s title derives from a conversation between the men...As Redbone explains, there is no such thing as a truly perfect circle, it 'can only ever exist as an idea'. Which means, he adds, 'that we each carry one within us'...The notion neatly encapsulates the generosity of Myers’s magnetic novel, which brings together ingredients as diverse as folk song, Gaia theory and trauma, grounding them all in a memorable hymn to beauty.
Myers's duo of crop circlers consists of Redbone, a 'crust-punk' hippie who dreams up increasingly complex geometric patterns, and Calvert, a severely traumatized veteran of the Falklands War who does the legwork of finding usable fields...The odd couple is united by a complementary hatred of England and love of its land and roots...Begun as a lark, the crop circles provide them a lifeline...Their shared code is to 'fuel the myth and strive for beauty'...The contrasting public and private aspects of the stunt are shown in parallel...In the background, through invented newspaper clippings, we read of the growing media sensation surrounding the crop circles, the mass pilgrimages by UFO-spotters, and the farmers who make a mint charging for access...But Mr. Myers focuses more on the creative act itself...The chapters chronicle each midnight mission in the fields, depicting both the challenge to remain undiscovered and the illicit thrill of completion...Anonymity and secrecy are key to the work but also a source of deep melancholy, and the novel uncovers a plaintive connection between artistic transcendence and personal loneliness...The controversies attached to crop circles ultimately fade out behind the touching individual quests for meaning...'The next one is always a beacon,' the outcast artists think, 'beaming hope across the strange and haunted landscapes of their solitary existences.'
The Perfect Golden Circle is ostensibly about male friendship...Two men, flotsam of the 1980s – Calvert, a Falklands veteran, and Redbone, a failed punk musician – tramp across the English countryside in 1989 making crop circles...How these outcasts met, or what drew them to each other apart from poor personal hygiene, is never made clear...Like two feral Hobbits, they rattle about the dystopian and degraded shires of an England in the death throes of the Thatcher era, making ever more elaborate crop circles...It all reads a bit like a lockdown fever dream and there are flashes of intensely beautiful descriptions of the fast disappearing natural world...Why the men hang out together, or what has set them traipsing around fields on moonlit nights, is not made clear because neither is articulate...Theirs is ‘a friendship based on things largely left unseen and unsaid’...But they are not inarticulate in the illuminating ways in which Beckett’s tramps and misfits are, and so the result for this reader was one of intense irritation...The bond between these two – the why, the where, the how they met – is nowhere to be found, leaving an unsatisfying emotional lacuna at the heart of the book.
There are many adjectives I could use for Benjamin Myers’ novel. It is fascinating, clever, angry, poignant, beautifully constructed but the one I shall plump for is: it is lovely. I do not use that word lightly. It is a work of love, and a work about works of love, and a work that evokes a sense of love in the reader. It is not charming or whimsical or quirky,...It is, as well as lovely, a deeply serious book ... One of the novel’s joys is its resistance to explanation ... does have its own very neat closure. As this mismatched pair strive ever for perfection, and chuckle over their ginger beer and cider about all the theories, there was always going to have to be an ending. The ending is perfect. To return to the visual arts and to the ways we look at nature, it is both apocalyptic and the summation of auto-destructive art as imagined by Gustav Metzger. This too will pass.
It's 1989 and they've planned all winter for this, their 'summer of glory'...Redbone is the mastermind behind crop circle design; Calvert is the reconnaissance man...He makes forays into the countryside to find the perfect location, one that provides cover as the two of them tramp through the fields and a viewing spot from which to see their handiwork...The Perfect Golden Circle has much to say about art, but it also has an allegorical feel...An elderly woman Calvert and Redbone meet one dark night in a field and then help search for her lost dog has overtones of Queen Elizabeth II...A drunk aristocrat, described as having a face 'like that of a child's drawing — two eyes, a nose and a mouth drawn onto a pink balloon,' mistakes Redbone as the estate's gamekeeper, emphasizing the incompetency of the nobility...And the unwashed masses are represented by the people who illegally dump garbage in fields or those who come to look at the crop circles and damage the crop...So the novel is political, too, but its success rides on the backs of Redbone and Calvert...They are as mysterious — to themselves and to each other, at times — as the crop circles are to the public, but their oddball friendship and wide-ranging conversations slowly reveal who they are, much like the designs they flatten into fields...They can't be appreciated until seen in their entirety.
... roiling, rollicking ... Throughout, there are echoes of David Peace, Gordon Burn, Stephen Barber – writers who render the recent past as occulture, hallucinatory. There are also spectres of other more politically fraught fields from the 80s: Goose Green, Orgreave, the Battle of the Beanfield near Stonehenge ... But a steady flow of banter lightens the mood ... Myers isn’t an ironist. What’s most striking about The Perfect Golden Circle is the way it depicts time – its thickness, mysteries, continuities, the way it ebbs and flows ... makes these eccentric outsiders seem like seditionaries in arcadia, contemporary folk heroes.
The pleasures of this bountiful novel are like a glass of cool water on a parched summer day...A story set in 1989 without the heavy setting of typical Eighties retro fiction and its relentless parade of Chopper bikes and Babycham...This is an earthly tale of ancient lands that is not cheapened by the sensationalist discovery of a woman's corpse or a baby who talks to stoats...A parable of the ecological and artistic affairs of man that never disappears up its own circle...The understated, plangent loveliness of Myers's storytelling is reminiscent of Mackenzie Crook's brilliant TV series Detectorists...Here is a strong, spiritual writer who sees and loves every dewdrop, old oak, soft little animal and buried sword, and offers them up to us like the precious treasures they are...The Perfect Golden Circle deserves every top ranking in any list of the best books about rural England.
The Perfect Golden Circle is a thrilling introduction to a British literary star an a moving meditation on history, trauma and the urge to create...The Perfect Golden Circle concerns itself with what modern Britain is choosing to leave behind, which includes those damaged by a pointless war, like Calvert, and unclassifiable creative sorts, like Redbone, who simply don't fit in...The land is also in the process of being left behind, both in terms of reckless ecological destruction and in the average person's ties to ancient practices of farming or spiritual communion...In the fields at night with Calvert and Redbone, Myers's evocative prose captures the unlikely friendship growing between the two characters as well as the ways their work helps them heal and find purpose...The Perfect Golden Circle is closely bound to its characters, but its reflective mood takes readers on enthralling excursions into England's vast history.
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...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...The book consists of a brief chronicle of each of their summer exploits, 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.
In this slight, low-key outing, Myers 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...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.