EVIE AND GUY by DAN HOLLOWAY
cover image © copyright Veronika von Volkova
IF – you were to read a brief bio of me – i.e. fifty-something primary school teacher, wife, mother, grandmother, resident of a Scottish, Hebridean island – you’d probably picture a late-middle aged (but not old of course) grey-haired, sensible, respectable and conventional woman. I know I probably would. We all do it – make lazy assumptions, go with stereotype, prejudice and preconception. It’s easier, less risky more comfortable. And for the most part in our busy lives, these filters that help us decode what we need to pay attention to – these ‘usual rules’ and our judgemental shorthand – are benign and get us through the day.
BUT – you probably guessed –there was a ‘but’ – there are times when assumptions and comfort-zone thinking can and MUST be laid aside. There are times when we should all start from scratch and try something new or get to know new people. There are times when we should approach and embrace the unknown with an open-mind. It’s how we grow, how we learn and how we thrive. It’s certainly my approach to life – despite fitting the above stereotype a lot of the time.
SO – what’s the above got to do with this book review? The answer is EVERYTHING.
Or rather it’s got everything to do with the book itself.
‘EVIE AND GUY’ BY DAN HOLLOWAY is a love story. It’s sad in parts. It’s happy in parts. It tells the story of a relationship between a man and a woman over several years and it tells it from the points of view of both lovers. So, those unfamiliar with Dan’s work will probably be thinking – oh, here Anne goes again. She’s been reading another soppy romance. And this Dan – he needs to man up – what’s he doing writing romantic fiction? If that’s what you’re thinking – STOP right there. Open your mind, you’re about to encounter something new and it’s worth making an effort to get your head round it.
‘Evie and Guy’ is a book without words. There – go figure… Figure being the operative word. Holloway tells the story using only numbers. And it works.
The story is told via a series of dates. I must admit I had to read and reflect, re-read and reflect, read again and ponder some more – before I started to get it. But I was in ‘embrace the new’ mode and I know Holloway is a writer worthy of time and trust. And you know what – it was worth it.
Having put in the effort, I began to see possible meanings to the dates, began to see a story. My interpretation may differ from yours of course – but that’s true when reading any book. I found it sad but hopeful – but then I am a romantic…
Contrary to what one’s prejudices might dictate, Holloway shows that it is possible to tell a story by numbers. Numbers and their patterns do form a sort of language. They do communicate something and they have meaning and relationship to each other.
I am a teacher of children with special needs and some of my pupils have little or no spoken language – not because of any physical difficulty in producing speech – but because they can’t use words. Words make little sense to them. But oh boy they can communicate. Being wordless does not equate with being dumb. There is a brilliant book on this very subject called ‘Autism and the Edges of the Known World’ by Olga Bogdashina. I reviewed it here. It deals with language as a barrier to communication.
Words don’t have the monopoly on language. A person who is extensively paralysed can communicate by blinking. Morse code uses dots and dashes. All codes use more obscure symbols to stand for less obscure ones. Words themselves are codes. Any form of communication requires the receiver to interpret the sender’s meaning.
With Holloway’s ‘Evie and Guy’ it’s simply down to a willingness on the part of the reader to decode and interpret the writer’s message.
Reading a book written entirely in numbers is like looking at a painting. You have to look and relook and really engage with what’s in front of you. You can’t skim and scan like you can sometimes get away with when dealing with the printed word. The same can be true of music. It can take a few listens to appreciate what you’re hearing. And perhaps it is music that Holloway’s book is most akin to. Numbers and music share several similarities. Both have pattern, rhythm and flow. Both can build to a high point and then ebb away. Both musical and mathematical ability come from the same region of the brain. Music and maths are capable of transcending language. They don’t need words.
So, yes – a book written entirely in numbers is weird. Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, it’s difficult to do and difficult to read. But that’s sort of the point.
I love words. I love verbal and written language. However, I salute, respect and admire what Dan Holloway has done in ‘Evie and Guy’. It’s brave, original and experimental. But more than that it’s liberating – and it works. Go on give it a try – you might surprise yourself.
‘Evie and Guy’ can be downloaded free as a pdf and Dan suggests that, if you can afford it, you can make a paypal donation to firstname.lastname@example.org
It is also available from lulu.com in paperback format – see link below
Dan’s blog is at – http://danholloway.wordpress.com
Dan can be followed on Twitter at @agnieszkasshoes