It would be fair to say that Lord Dunsany, aka Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany, is one of my favourite authors, and his ‘The King of Elfland’s Daughter’ haunts me in the best possible way. I came to Dunsany in no small part through Tom, who read me short stories by skype when I was ill and there was an ocean between us. It turned out I had ‘The Charwoman’s Shadow’ read to me as a child but had not remembered the author. Or, to be honest, much of the story.
Tom had already named his central character for Fast Food ‘Dunsany’. He has a first name, and it isn’t any of the above ones, although people who have been paying silly amounts of attention will have spotted Horatio Plunkett in Letters Between Gentlemen mentions the Drax Plunkett line.
I love Dunsany the author because he is beautifully melancholic. He seems like a man in the wrong time and place reaching for a world that no longer exists, or maybe never did. A man who longs for somewhere else. His prose style and breadth of imagination leave me breathless.
Dunsany as a character is no attempt at capturing Lord Dunsany. I like to think of him as a descendant in a time slightly ahead of our own. Our Dunsany is a magician, also seeking wonder and drawn to the edges of otherworlds. He’s very much a man alone, and he carries that aloneness – which comes from my responses to Lord Dunsany’s fiction. Where Lord Dunsany writes of impossible palaces that fade with the dawn or are destroyed by angry gods before you even get to see them, Dunsany the sorcerer is in the business of calling such cloud castles into existence. He’s not anything like as alone as he thinks he is, either…
To be seeking re-enchantment can be a lonely business, but perhaps it doesn’t have to be. Fast Food at the Centre of the World is my castle in the air, my borderland with faerie, my impossible dreams coming into being. I wrote it in the midst of a love affair that was being sorely hindered by an ocean, and no certainty of improving on that. Some of the characters in this story give voice to my fears and despair. But also to my wildest hopes.