The Tivington Nott
"To sacrifice or be sacrified: the outsider's stark choice in Alex Miller's darkly violent Exmoor. But, like the almost mythical Tivington nott, the outsider harbours a savage will of his own, an Odyssean instinct for self-preservation the natives cannot tame. What they plan as a bloody initiation becomes for him a liberatory rite of passage." - Paul Carter
"This meditation on the condition of wildness, on being an outsider . . . is one of the most original pieces of writing of the year." - Peter Pierce, Herald
"Abounds in symbols to stir the subconscious. It is a rich study of place . . . both elegant and urgent." - John Larkin, Age
The doctor told Morris yesterday that he shouldn't eat so much raw pig fat. It would probably kill him before he was forty. But it is the staple diet of labouring people in this locality. Morris is not from here originally, though his wife is - her parents eke out an abandoned existence in a decaying stone cottage up behind Monksilver in a sunless cleft of the moor; a situation that gives me the creeps. Morris is a native of the open downs of Wiltshire. Boarding with him, he has become my friend. His uncle, Tiger Westall, tenants this place and Morris serves him honestly, but is his own man despite that.
Even though he is a real grinder I did not mind working for the Tiger. He is not just an uncomplicated farmer. His hard good sense about managing the farm deserts him when it comes to the matter of hunting the wild red deer on Exmoor. He fears this passion as a disability and is forever guarding himself against it. Everything he does is complicated for him by this duality in his nature. He tried to get me to address him as 'Master' when I first came here from London two years ago. It is the tradition and Morris abides by it. I respect traditions and have one or two of my own. One of them is not calling people 'Master'. I could see how much it meant to the Tiger to have me conform, however, so I did have a go at it, just to be fair. But it was no good. I couldn't look him in the eye and say it. I wasn't being stubborn. There was more to it than that.
From the Penguin paperback edition, 1989.
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Last modified: December 15, 2004.