Zig Zag


by Richard Thornley

cover design by Judy Sohigian
ISBN 0-932274-45-5
first American edition 1988
172 PAGES. 5½" x 8½"

The American publication of Richard Thornley's first book, originally published by Jonathan Cape, Ltd.

In each of the three novellas an un-named energy threatens to erupt: in “Gastarbeiter” a young man's honor compels him to take the wheel of a gigantic eighteen-wheeler for the first time in his life. “You can drive unless you don't think you can,” are the words of the experienced driver before he hands over and falls asleep, and the young man's spirit is tested to the limit. In “Tourist Attraction” a Jordanian salesman who sells more onyx eggs and plaster Davids than anyone else in the San Lorenzo market of Florence finds that marriage to an American tourist is not necessarily the best way to Los Angeles. In “Jewels” Thornley brilliantly conveys the tensions which breed in a French anarchist commune, as natural shocks and human temperaments intrude on the mindless preparations for winter. He shows how the unselfconscious rhythms of milking and scything can be broken by the sudden violence of storms, both natural and emotional.

Thornley maintains a masterful restraint and has a marvelous ear for the odd communications that can take place between peoples of different cultures. He has a descriptive gift that is startling and a style that makes one want to read more.

About the Book

With the three stories in Zig-Zag . . . as settings for attacks on commercialism, authority, liberalism, conventions, snobbery, tourism, and the whole life-denying quality of European civilization, we are in a man's world. Hemingway and Kerouac jostle for acknowledgment.

— Hermione Lee


Not only a remarkable talent for characterization, but also that apparently innate gift of selectivity which is the sign of the true novelist.


Resourceful, restrained, deceptively casual, the writing proclaims the arrival on the scene of a born story-teller.


. . . economic and trenchant prose . . . dauntingly impressive.

— William Boyd


cover art also by Judy Sohigian The Hungry Girls and Other Stories
Velocities of Rage