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Review: | So Many Ways to Begin by Jon McGregor | Manuals
This was a bold book - technically adventuresome, unpredictably dotted and in a kind of staggering free trade that turned the first pages into an onomatoeic revolution: This was eye-catching, but it left you a little worried about whether you wanted to keep it in the whole book - or, more worryingly, in your entire orphanage.
Many Ways to Begin is so unadorned in writing in prose that one wonders whether McGregor may have gone too far. In Coventry, David Carter has been a trustee of the City of Coventry for many years. The vocation may not seem exciting, but David has been intrigued by the stale fragrances and shiny flooring of art galleries since early childhood.
David's own private collections provide the frame for this book - a series of unchronological fragments of the Carter story that span several centuries, each section of which is based on a memento or relict from the history of the Carter people. McGregor's bric-a-brac story-telling mentality is a good match. McGregor began studying cinema before turning to writing, and his story is strongly affected by vision.
Like his first book, McGregor tries to concentrate on the everyday until it becomes numerical, but in this case the viewer gradually constructs an image rather than being bombed with nervous, attention-seeking imaginations. It' as if McGregor, after exhausting the effects of close-up, started exploring the power of long filming.
David's folks are moving to Coventry. It' a popular-historical exhibit that tells the tale of Coventry's post-war convalescence through the artifacts and memories of the men who came to reconstruct it. In spite of early skepticism of the museum's directors, David's show is a huge success:
" Everyone, it seems, is a trustee - but only pros and real connoisseurs like David appreciate the balancing and choosing necessary to merge different things into one story: As a hamsterer, an omnivore gatherer of perceptions and experiences, the knack is to show only so many objects at once.
Many Ways to Begin suggest that he has learnt the value of storing certain things.