Ellis Sharp: To Wetumpka


The latest addition to my website is Ellis Sharp‘s To Wetumpka. This is, inevitably, another experimental novel from Sharp, with a bleak view of the contemporary world, albeit touched with some humour. Clifford Tollinger has decided to escape from London and go the dreary seaside town of Lowestoft, on the East coast of England. One day, he decides to take a bus out to Kessingland (which is mentioned W G Sebald‘s Die Ringe des Saturn. Eine englische Wallfahrt (The Rings of Saturn)). He walks on the beach when he sees what looks like an eel, in a rock pool. He throws a few stones at it but then is surprised when the eel – which he now calls a sea-snake – leaves the pool and starts to follow him. He tries to run away from it but the snake keeps pace with him, eventually attacking him and sliding its whole body down his throat. He manages to get to a doctor the next day and is taken first to Lowestoft Hospital and then is taken away to a military hospital in an underground bunker. He is operated on but when he wakes up, the snake has been removed but there no-one in the medical facility and his stomach has not been sewn up. He manages to get away and is finally taken to another military hospital where he is detained. This is, however, no science fiction story. There are no answers to what the snake is, what happened in the two hospitals and what happens to Tollinger, except that he ends up in Wetumpka, Alabama. It is a completely original novel about the grimness and strangeness of life which gives us no easy explanations and no tidy solution. I can thoroughly recommend it.

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