Preview — Brian Westby by Forrest Reid. Brian Westby by Forrest Reid. Reid is a master of dialogue, and his prose is a delight For Reid, it was love at first sight, and his young muse was the inspiration for a string of late-career literary triumphs that culminated in the James Tait Black Prize for Young Tom as the best novel of For Gilbert, his friendship with Reid helped launch his own writing career, which saw him publish five excellent, though now neglected, novels between and In Brian Westby , arguably his masterpiece, Reid immortalized their meeting, recasting their relationship as father and son.
In Brian Westby, Martin Linton, an ageing novelist wondering whether he has anything left to live for, travels to the Irish seaside for his health. There, he meets Brian, the teenage son he never knew he had, and finds his passion for life reawakened as he tries to win the boy's confidence and affection. But their burgeoning relationship is threatened by Linton's ex-wife Stella, who believes him to be an immoral influence, and in an unforgettable climax Brian will be forced to choose between his love for his newfound father and his loyalty to the only parent he has ever known.
This first-ever republication of Reid's scarce novel includes an introduction by Andrew Doyle, an appendix containing unpublished texts by Reid and Gilbert, and a reproduction of the original jacket art. Published first published To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Brian Westby , please sign up. Lists with This Book.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Readers of Gay Fiction. Excellent prose, strong characterization, intelligent framing and a cleverly conceived plot device make this book a classic which in some ways resembles Other Voices, Other Rooms. Katerina rated it really liked it Oct 13, Mark rated it it was amazing Mar 01, Chichikov rated it it was amazing Jul 31, Michal rated it liked it Apr 13, Rod Evan rated it it was amazing Sep 08, Bernardo Villela rated it it was amazing Jun 07, John rated it really liked it Aug 02, Miroslav Kohut rated it really liked it Apr 17, Prof rated it did not like it Dec 08, Haneen Alkhatib rated it really liked it Apr 11, Despite the existence of this constant driving force behind Reid's fiction, the road traced by each of his narratives persists to be an ever changing rollercoaster of emotions.
According to the standard account of suspense put forward by Ortony, Clore, and Collins, "suspense is composed of three things: The ultimate reveal of this information and the effectual elimination of uncertainty has a cathartic effect on the reader as narrative equilibrium is restored and the "discomfort" of suspense is gone. Reid often refers back to moments in the past where narrative tension was on the cusp of breaking and the information was about to be "prematurely" revealed, which even in hindsight, gives a renewed sense of "discomfort".
The following passage depicts one such instance: He had had two reasons for not doing so, but neither satisfied his conscience, and the first had ceased to exist. In the beginning he had wanted the boy to become friends with him spontaneously, uninfluenced by a possible sense of duty.
If Brian had asked him his name on that morning of the reading of the manuscript, he would at once have told him; but he had not done so—probably had been too shy—with the consequence that Linton had been given time to think the matter over and to invent the singularly tortuous scheme he had actually adopted. And it was so unlike him to be tortuous; he would never have believed himself capable of hatching such a plot.
Yet there it was. This is an excellent example of the difference between the two different kinds of narrative logic proposed by Sturgess , a "logic of narrativity and the logic of represented narrative" p. The latter, the logic of represented narrative, is something even the characters are aware of, as it features events happening within their own represented reality. The logic of narrativity dictates Reid's choice to provide a single point of view in most chapters, whether it is Linton's or Brian's. Only five out of the novel's twenty-one chapters feature multiple points of view, some including those of Mrs.
Westby and Linton's dog - Mickey. This point of view system is crucial for the achievement of miscommunication related tension. Even the five chapters that have multiple points of view and accordingly bear the names of two characters, have clearly delineated boundaries between the points of view of the characters, with the narrator dealing with each of them in turn. Meanwhile, all mental processes not belonging to whoever is the point of view character at any particular time remain perfectly obscure.
These chapters therefore achieve a more dynamic setting for the same effect, by implementing the same shifts of perspective but at closer intervals. This concept often causes the narrator and the point of view character to find themselves perplexed by something which they are not able to correctly interpret or something which they are simply not presented with.
For example, early on in the novel, Brian has mood swings which Linton misinterprets as unfriendliness Reid, , p. This unique, chapter- based, point of view system allows four different reveals to take place by the end of the novel. The first three are connected to Brian's true parentage - the first one reveals it to the reader Reid, , p. The fourth signifies a reveal to Mrs.
Westby that the others have come to be fully aware of Brian's true parentage Reid, , p. Moreover, the first two reveals set up the stage for the latter two, and in the meantime tension is kept high by the lack of awareness of the characters kept in the dark. Most importantly, because the reveal to the reader is the earliest one, a level of uncertainty is established that persists over the subsequent reveals.
For Hitchcock, this disclosure of information to the readers, but not to the characters is "the most effective method of arousing suspense" Smuts, , p. The paradox of suspense realism and anti-climax According to the standard account of suspense, high stakes and uncertainty are the principal prerequisites for suspense - "the greatest suspense is felt in cases where the outcome is very uncertain and the stakes are very high" Smuts, , p. The first prerequisite - high stakes, is easily covered with Reid's persisting quest for the ideal companion, which obviously has universal appeal, spanning different age, gender, and social groups.
Its profundity is further amplified by Reid's tendency to omit explicit descriptions and rationalizations of this quest which imbues it with an almost mythical air. What is at stake in a narrative seems beyond the scope of the sort of narratological analysis this essay deals with and on the continuum between form and substance it falls neatly on the latter end. Despite not being a formalistic element per se, high stakes are a crucial factor in eliciting "narrative desires", something effective stories tend to do Smuts, , p.
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On the other hand uncertainty might not be as indispensable as the standard account of suspense might suggest because we often feel suspense on the second encounter with certain narratives, although in a slightly reduced form. This phenomenon is called "the paradox of suspense realism" Smuts, , p. The opening chapter of "The Choice" - the third part of Brian Westby - is a perfect example of this paradox. The chapter is replete with uncertainty and suspense is definitely retained on a second encounter with the narrative.
All the relevant information is withheld from Brian while Linton has full control of the situation - retaining full agency over the potential disclosure. There are several theories attempting to solve the paradox of suspense realism. For example Richard Gerrig "claims that in some but not all cases and given certain conditions and dispositions, repeaters when narratively engaged can be sufficiently immersed in or transported by the narrative so as to render their experiences saliently approximate to nonrepeater experiences" - "they know the outcome, but that knowledge fails to be operative in their engagement, so their experience is as if they did not know" Uidhir, , p.
This theory is called the "moment by moment forgetting" theory. The premise of the theory is that "evolution has not equipped humans with the ability to recall known outcomes to repeated events, since there are no exactly repeated events in nature" Smuts, , p. Therefore, uncertainty persists even on re-encountering the narrative, meaning that for Gerrig, the paradox of suspense realism is non-existent.
In the context of Brian Westby, this theory suggests that the memory lapse of a repeater experience might erase details about the exact point of the narrative where the reveal takes place, thus retaining reader anticipation. This is a different form of uncertainty than complete ignorance of the outcome, but still more than capable of generating suspense. Another theory attempting to tackle this problem is Yanal's "emotional misidentification theory", which rejects the existence of suspense on a second reading, claiming that readers "are not feeling the emotion of suspense, they are in fact feeling an emotion for example, apprehension, anxiety, anticipation , which they then misreport as suspense" Uidhir, , p.
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This theory is highly plausible as emotions seem to be quite immune to the abrasiveness of a second reading. This is closely connected to Jockers' concept of emotional valence, meant to help measure plot development, which I will deal with in the following chapter. However, probably the most comprehensive theory dealing with suspense is Smuts' "desire-frustration theory". According to Smuts "suspense results from the frustration of a strong desire to affect the outcome of an imminent event" p. Considering the sheer number of situations in Brian Westby especially designed to frustrate narrative desires, this theory immediately sounds as the most plausible one.
This theory also explains why "we frequently feel suspense intensely in response to narrative artworks" but "seldom feel it in our daily lives 'narrative imbalance' " Smuts, , p.
This is because we usually have agency over most of the proceedings of our daily lives, while "we are completely powerless over narratives" Smuts, , p. This is also the reason why non-interactive narratives are usually more suspenseful than interactive narratives. If we keep this concept into consideration, it is easy to see the range and directionality of desire-frustration in the narrative. Due to the simulational quality of narrative which makes us, at least to a certain extent, put ourselves in the shoes of the point of view character, there is an illusion of a small degree of agency in the reader if the character seems to be in control of what is happening in the narrative.
However, if the point of view character is somehow rid of this agency, desire-frustration reaches its peak.
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In Brian Westby the highest point of desire-frustration happens at the very end of the novel, when Linton realizes he is stood up Reid, , p. It is arguable whether this ending might be interpreted as an anti-climax. Despite not being tailored to suit the immediate expectations of the readers; this is still a perfectly viable way of ending a narrative.
Such is the power of the author, that he is perfectly capable of ending the story in ways that do not necessarily follow the narrative desires of the readers. Even without a "positive" ending, much of the anticipated release is still there and narrative equilibrium is achieved, or we might even say restored as the novel both starts and ends with a Linton point of view chapter. By the end it is easy to forget that at the very start of the narrative Linton is deeply depressed and resigned to his fate Reid, , p.
One the other hand, it can be said that we are indeed dealing with an anti-climax, as a satisfying ending in the sense of full disclosure of information and elimination of desire- frustration is not achieved at the end.