Headway

5 11 2009

The Maintenance of Headway by Magnus Mills

Maintenance

‘It’s a matter of procedure,’ I explained. ‘Strictly for the record. You don’t get sacked from this job unless you did what Thompson did.’ ‘What did he do then?’ ‘We never mention it.’ In Magnus Mills’ brilliant short novel he transports us into the bizarre world of the bus drivers who take us to work, to the supermarket, to the match and home again. It is a strange but all too real universe in which ‘the timetable’ and ‘maintenance of headway’ are sacred, but where the routes can change with the click of an inspector’s fingers and the helpless passengers are secondary. The journey from the southern outpost to the arch, the circus and the cross will seem as familiar as your regular route, but then Magnus Mills shows you the almost religious fervour which lies behind it, and how it is fine to be a little bit late but utterly unforgivable to be a moment early.

Very reminiscent of The Scheme for Full Employment but none the worse for that. Mills writes in a cool, deadpan style and delivers a surreal tale of the strange life on the buses which is compellingly realised and never dull.

3 star

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