Review: “The Perfect Golden Circle” by Benjamin Myers
In 1991, Doug Bower and Dave Chorley made it clear that they – not aliens, or whatever theory was going on at the time – had taken planks of wood and lengths of rope and made crop circles in the southern England, from the late 1970s. . What started as a lark turned into a 13-year-old hoax.
Author Benjamin Myers uses Bower and Chorley’s real-life endeavors as a starting point for his latest novel, “The Perfect Golden Circle,” but for Redbone and Calvert, the main characters (virtually the only characters), making crop circles is no joke: “There are few things either really cares about, but making crop circles is one of them. Sometimes it feels like the only thing.”
It’s 1989 and they’ve planned the whole winter for this, their “summer of glory”. Redbone is the mastermind behind crop circle design; Calvert is the man of recognition. He forays into the countryside to find the perfect spot, one that provides cover as they both walk through the fields and a vantage point from which to view their work.
And there’s a code for what they do, an agreed code “when their long-term business began out of necessity, madness, anxiety, mischievous disturbance, and much more”: Whatever is written, plans or designs, must be destroyed, the same slot can never be used twice, and crops cannot be damaged. Most importantly, never tell another soul about their efforts. It is the mystery that propels them, the mythical nature of the crop circle – that and the designs and their increasing complexity.
Each chapter is dedicated to a project and ends with a newspaper article that makes people react, hammering home the idea that art does not exist in a vacuum. You have to see it, see it again. With each effort, Redbone and Calvert’s devotion to reaching the heights of art, embodied in “the perfect golden circle”, grows. Despite the impossible standard, they continue.
“The Perfect Golden Circle” has a lot to say about art, but it also has an allegorical twist. An elderly woman, Calvert and Redbone, meet one dark night in a field, then help her search for her lost dog, which has connotations of Queen Elizabeth II. A drunken aristocrat, described as having a face ‘like that of a child’s drawing – two eyes, a nose and a mouth drawn on a pink balloon’, mistakes Redbone as the estate’s gamekeeper, pointing to incompetence of nobility. And the unwashed masses are represented by the people who illegally dump garbage in the fields or those who come to watch the crop circles and damage the crop.
The novel is therefore also political, but its success rests on the backs of Redbone and Calvert. They’re as mysterious – to themselves and to each other, sometimes – as crop circles are to the public, but their bizarre friendship and far-reaching conversations slowly reveal who they are, much like the drawings that they flatten in the fields. They cannot be appreciated until they are seen in their entirety.
Maren Longbella is editor-in-chief of Star Tribune.
The perfect golden circle or the strange rites of an English summer
By: Benjamin Myers.
Publisher: Melville House, 272 pages, $27.99.