In November 2016, an anonymous critic wrote a sustained analysis on Andrew Rilstone’s now classic essay “On Monday I placed two apples“. The critique was published without a title, and is referred to for convenience as On “On Monday I placed two apples”.
I was fortunate enough to receive in the post a pamphlet containing this analysis, from an anonymous sender. It is itself a fascinating piece of work. The author appears to have had unprecedented access to Rilstone, allowing him or her a level of insight into the creative process not previously seen in other critical appraisals.
On the other hand, the author’s appreciation of Rilstone’s undoubted talents sometimes spills over into outright hagiography — as betrayed in the artwork of the pamphlet, whose front cover (reproduced above) is a simple monochrome portrait of Rilstone, and whose back cover contains fourteen identical portraits.
How did the author gain such access to Rilstone’s compositional process? There are hints that the author may have served as his private secretary when Rilstone was in declining health; but it seems he may have exaggerated the length of his employment in this capacity, and his degree of intimacy with Rilstone. In this light, we might legitimately question the numerous passages in which the author claims insight into the internal mental processes underlying some of Rilstone’s prose — along with obscure biographical details such as his supposed confrontation with an equivocating faith healer. While not doubting the author’s critical acuity, then, it is possible to question the veracity of some specific assertions.
Does the critical analysis hold up as a coherent work in its own right? I think it does. Notwithstanding the caveats above, a profound understanding of Rilstone’s work is in evidence, including many of his much-overlooked early pieces. One is left to wonder at the identity of the anonymous author — and to wonder what Rilstone himself would have made of it all.