The Drive North (Allison & Busby 1977)
Alexis Lykiard's new novel takes many risks. It is an account of -a young poet on a tour of England (and of the people he meets and the stories they tell), written with such frankness, openness and honesty that the reader may feel his own privacy is exposed or invaded.
It is a picaresque book; a domestic comedy with undertones of tragedy; a documentary on the theme of being a working writer today (but it does not romanticise the job of writing: here there are bills to pay, rejections, children to bring up...).
Experimental yet easy to read, its chinese-box construction questions the form of the traditional novel. At many levels it explores the struggle between flesh and spirit, which is Alexis Lykiard's favourite theme.
THE DRIVE NORTH is a reckless book, standing in contrast to the mainstream of modern English fiction (often characterised as being careful, precise, lifeless, irrelevant). This novel is, above all else, alive.
Alexis Lykiard on King's Bridge Cambridge 1976
“Alexis Lykiard continues to take a lonely, esoteric but wholly admirable road in The Drive North… Intricately constructed, exuberantly told” [Sunday Times]
“One of the pleasures of this book is indeed to be had from the sight of assured craftsmanship in action. It is a picaresque novel that isn’t at all typical of picaresque novels and an introspective novel that escapes from the limitations of such novels… I was reminded of Malcolm Lowry and his aim in that masterpiece The Forest Path To The Spring, to write about human happiness with the same dignity usually given only to tragedy, and how he brings it off there and now Mr Lykiard here; and it was not only in this that Mr Lykiard reminded me of Lowry… like Lowry he contrives to make the reflection dramatic… The Drive North is very funny… It’s probably the best thing he’s done yet”[Allan Massie, The Scotsman]
“A rough-hewn kind of novel, jokey, crude, hilarious, vivid, always intelligent, occasionally very moving” [C.J.Driver, The Guardian]
“The whole tone of the novel is jazzy in that it uses a simple theme and builds on it, shoots off at tangents at times with asides that seem initially irrelevant, but finally adds up to a swinging, goodhumoured performance. Easy to read and thoroughly entertaining” [Jim Burns, Tribune]
“I was meaning to write or talk to you ages ago about how much I enjoyed The Drive North – a terrific book, I’ve read most of it twice and will again” [Michael Horovitz]
“What Alexis Lykiard is after is the feeling of continuously writing up your own life, fictionalising events as they happen, orgies and all” [Lorna Sage, Observer]
“It is hard to see how Mr Lykiard can use this as an excuse for being taken seriously” [The Listener]
“Bounce and gaiety and the occasional striking piece of imagery” [Irish Times]
“The novel is an interesting work especially to a poet because it contains so many wise gleanings of a real poet’s experience: that, and the excellent crafting of what is really a thin plot, raise it to the level of good, and readable, literature. The ‘porn’ charge cannot entirely be obviated, despite the authorial distancing device. The unintelligent reader will treat it as porn” [William Oxley, 1991]
Alexis Lykiard outside Trinty Hall Cambridge 1976