Acid trips and revelations: Eureka by Anthony Quinn
Eureka investigates an elusiveness about art whilst also being a Sixties caper. It follows the making of a new film by German director Reiner Werther Kloss: a very loose adaptation of a Henry James story being written by man-about-town screenwriter Nat Fane, a man who likes an exciting life more than getting work done. The film features fledgling actress Billie Cantrip, whose introduction to the world of cinema is not quite as she expected, with mystery, acid trips, fire, and many, many secrets featuring as the film ‘Eureka’ is slowly made. The bustle of art, music, and gangsters in London in 1967 forms the backdrop for the book, which somehow balances the fun and danger of the period with meditations about obsession, artistic creation, and the hunt for real meaning.
Quinn gives all of the main characters extensive backgrounds and moves between focuses on them to weave together a long story, though the narrative doesn’t take place over more than a summer. Intercut between the chapters are snippets of the screenplay for the film that Fane is writing within the narrative, revealing the secrets of the film as the tension in the story rises. This technique gives good freedom for Quinn to counterpoint ideas about art and love in one story with another, and also to break up one narrative with another. This means that the book doesn’t feel as long as it might, and it stays gripping throughout with enjoyable characters and some surprisingly intriguing strands of plot.
As is discovered in the film being made, art should not give all the answers, and Quinn does not, giving his ending enough ambiguity to follow through with this message about the questioning of meaning. Eureka is a literary caper that delves into obsession with art and refuses to give definite answers to many of its major questions.