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Timeslip, Gymslip?

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"... So now we come to Timeslip, Gymslip? , that elusive, impossible to classify work which has prompted comparisons between works as widely varied as Virginia Woolf's Orlando and Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Melvyn Bragg, you've gone on record as calling it 'Possibly the most important twentieth century school story of them all.' That's an outstandingly bold assertion -- how would you set out to justify it?"

"For me, the central concept -- I'm afraid, if listeners have not yet read it (and if you haven't, please, please do - I can't urge you strongly enough) I'm going to have to be somewhat spoilery here -- but the idea of the narrator, the headmistress of an undistinguished girls' boarding school somewhere in the South-west -- who is on the surface one of the most dull and formulaic characters, the sort of person who could almost have fallen out of an Enid Blyton or an Angela Brazil -- as this still point, frozen in time -- Rupert Brooke, of course, famously wrote 'Stands the church clock at ten-to-three, and is there honey still for tea?' and it's that -- that sense of a peculiarly English timelessness you get from the "I" of Timeslip, Gymslip? -- we never do learn her name. The calendar on the wall of her office is permanently set on 1948, the Telegraph that's neatly folded on the corner of her tooled-leather desk is full of letters from indignant country doctors railing against the NHS, and yet, as you push outwards, the further you get from her centre point the more the post War starts to ripple into her consciousness -- you get - oh, everything from Beatniks to Vatican II to the Malaysian Konfrontasi -- but all of them filtered very dimly through layer upon layer of time and changed and twisted by that perpective, so the reader, too, is forced to confront their own assumptions -- we are all, ourselves, frozen in our own particular time-bubble, but it takes something like Timeslip, Gymslip? to bring that home to a reader -- As I said, it's an extraordinary achievement and I very much hope, if it wins the Man Booker that we may actually get to meet the author behind the "Tim Keith" pseudonym."

"That was Melvyn Bragg, on "Tim Keith's" Timeslip, Gymslip. And now we turn ---"