(copies obtainable from the author at £8, including postage.
‘How did I come to be here? Not here in general - for which I can see no good reason at all - but here in particular, in this small, 3rd-floor room overlooking the railway? Still, if everything works out according to plan I shall be out of here by next week. The fact is I'm on holiday. I haven't had a holiday since I was a kid, not in the sense of going away. I wouldn't want to go to the seaside in summer - it would make me quite miserable - and I've never been abroad in my life. Not that I wouldn't like to visit foreign parts - the trouble is that there are hardly any foreign parts left.
A hundred years ago travel meant something. It was quite an expedition to go to France and Italy . The Alps were inhabited not by skiers but by wolves and brigands. Nowadays, it doesn't mean a thing. People aren't interested in the countries they go to - all they want is sun and cheap liquor. But there are places I'd like to go to - though what I'd really like to do is travel in time as well as space…'
And, in a sense, his wish is fulfilled. His eight-day journey takes him round the world, with extended visits to China in the early 1840s and Japan in the late 1870s. Meanwhile, from his room in Earl's Court, he carries out a systematic investigation of a London cemetery, visits the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussaud's, attends a lecture on Egyptian burial customs and interviews an undertaker. And every day he combs through all the newspapers, which he buys in twos and threes at different shops so as not to attract attention, cutting out various items and pasting them into a scrapbook.
ANGUS WILSON: 'I enjoyed this book a lot... As Japan, Ceylon
and America haunt me, I found the book like the oddest, most tantalizing
FRANCIS KING / SUNDAY TELEGRAPH: 'To adventurous readers, prepared to tease at, and be teased by, an experimental work, I warmly recommend Alan Sheridan’s Vacation… the book makes for interesting, if undoubtedly macabre reading.'
W.J. NESBITT / NORTHERN ECHO: 'Like Webster, Alan Sheridan’s hero is much possessed by death - in a very nice way. He spends his eponymous Vacation exploring and recording the graves in Brompton Cemetery, collecting newspaper cuttings on homicides, and studying Victorian travel books as a change - though with especial interest in exotic funeral customs. All most unpromising, one might think, but there is a weird reality about this diary-cum-collage that could make it into quite a cult. It is certainly a most unusual first novel.'
ELIZABETH BERRIDGE / DAILY TELEGRAPH: 'It is no surprise to learn that Alan Sheridan has translated Radiguet, Pinget and RobbeGrillet. For ‘Vacation’ is just as mischievous as anything published by those originals. Mr Sheridan has written a novel which had me laughing aloud at its clever and barefaced impudence - imagine, photocopying 44 pages of Isabella Bird’s ‘Unbeaten Tracks in Japan’ (1880), 20 pages of the Rev. G. N. Wright’s ‘China’ (1843), filling up 39 pages with epitaphs taken from Brompton Cemetery, 21 pages of news items, a dozen or so pages of statistics on the life and death rates in England (1966), a transcript of a British Museum lecture on Ancient Egyptian burial customs, a detailed tour of the ‘Chamber of Horrors’... Well, is it a novel? Yes it is. It connects… I was won over by the cumulative effect, the growing sense of loneliness. This exact insurance clerk takes a fortnight’s holiday in London just before his 40th birthday, with a certain end in mind, travels the Far East vicariously with his (luckily) out-of-copyright authors, muses over life, death, and the dead. He is a positive presence. Sometime soon I intend to wander through Brompton Cemetery with Mr Sheridan’s plan in hand, checking up on certain epitaphs. For I don’t think he’s cheated. He wouldn’t dare surely?'
VICTORIA BRITTAIN / ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS: 'A strange and haunting book... Mr. Sheridan could have made Vacation a best seller... as it is he has produced a complex and memorable, if eerie work.'