Jon Gower Continues his Library of Wales Reading Challenge with 'The Withered Root'
'There is something positively lysergic about this novel, set against the backdrop of the religious convulsion, the revival which brought Wales to its praying knees in 1904 and 1905. It is a book so chock full of visions, lucid dreams and hallucinations – and they are so hyper-vividly described – that one imagines the grocer’s son from Clydach Vale dropping a few tabs of acid while penning it, even though this was written in 1927, a full four decades before Timothy Leary and his West Coast chemical experiments.'
'Yet, that said, some passages are so hallucinatory that, taken collectively, they read like the opening craziness of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas segued with The Book of Revelation. There is, for instance, the ‘terrible force of worship’ that sets:
the mind quivering amid broken spheres of split radiance and flaming skies, that opened before the inner vision a kingdom of unearthly emotion, where landscapes were voices of strange chants, where music was carved into symbols of crystal colour, and stars opened into faces of inspired beauty…
'Voices issue from throats like threads of flame, trees are red and there are ‘blood-red shadows’ about the white buildings. And in some of the dream sequences you’re really convinced that Rhys Davies, was on something: ‘He lay with a creature whose body was fibrous and damp as the thick stem of a monstrous resinous plant.’ Ah, that’s it, resin. That’s what he was smoking! Only kidding.'
Author, Broadcaster and Raconteur Jon Gower has undertaken the challenge to read all the titles in the current Library of Wales series, and review them. Are you joining in too? Do let us know.
Catch up: Read his review of Poetry: 1900 - 2000