Edinburgh International Book Festival: Patrick Flanery & Philipp Meyer

Review by Ryan Rushton | 14 Aug 2013
  • Philipp Meyer

The cult of Philipp Meyer has not quite made it across the pond yet at tonight’s two-thirds full Peppers Theatre. In the US Meyer has been making waves, lauded for his recently released second novel, The Son, which some are already calling an American classic. Much in the tradition of Cormac McCarthy, and in particular Blood Meridian, this multi-generational tale of the McCullough family centres around Eli, or the Colonel as he is known in adulthood, who was made to watch his mother and sister be raped and killed by Comanche Native Americans before being abducted and ingratiated into their tribe. Meyer discusses the method approach he took during research for the novel – he explained how he learned to hunt and track, and how he drank a pint of Bison blood so he could accurately describe the taste. 

This dark retelling of the American dream is matched by an equally intriguing, if completely different, look at the underbelly of US past and present. Patrick Flanery's Fallen Land, another second novel, charts the stories that take place on a piece of land, once the site of a hanging tree, before becoming African-American owned farmland, a failed real estate venture, and the home of a Bostonian family. In the novel the embittered real estate developer is on the run and has decided to move into the hidden, off-the-plans basement of one of the few completed homes when the new family arrive. Things start to go wrong fast and the son, who is the only one to have seen the man, is treated as if he is disturbed when he tries to tell his parents.

Both authors are candid about the fact they wanted to write books encapsulating something of America as a whole. Flanery describes Fallen Land as a “state of the nation” novel, whereas Meyer is more interested in looking at the history that has shaped the country as it stands today. The audience questions are inevitably aimed mostly at Meyer and his unorthodox research methods, but both authors give good accounts of why their works are intricately researched American novels of the ‘big’ variety and perhaps some day will be included in the pantheon of McCarthy, Franzen and Wallace.

Patrick Flanery and Philipp Meyer appeared at The Edinburgh International Book Festival on 10 Aug