Imagine you were the last person on earth. Imagine everyone else suddenly disappeared and you were left living solo, inhabiting a world suddenly emptied, a la I Am Legend, a la Wittgenstein’s Mistress, a la Wall-E. And now imagine that as part of your wanderings in that world, you stumbled one day upon an old radio station, and in that radio station you found an archive room, or a working computer file system, and that suddenly you had access to the full backlog of all the shows that radio station ran back in the day. Imagine, with the click of a button or the rolling of a tape, that you could once again (or, finally) hear the voices of all the people who lived in the world before.
Then, going through this archive, you stumbled upon a phone-in show called (unimaginatively) Talk To Tony, and all of a sudden you had access not only to these authentic voices from an authentic, fulsome and busy world, but also access to all the things they talked about, cared about. By listening back to the episodes—to thousands of phone calls to the show—you could piece together the lives and loves and issues and complaints and wonders of those people, in that society. You could listen to the world as it happened, and perhaps re-build it in your imagination…
This is what I tried to do with All Along The Echo , a novel born out of an obsession with Irish phone-in shows while I lived in a foreign land. It almost felt, as I worked on it, like a cover version of Krapp’s Last Tape, but for a society rather than an individual. As such, All Along The Echo imagines the lives of a host of people who listen to, work for, or phone into, a particular radio show at a particular time in the world. It’s a radio novel, and part surreal road-trip, and I suppose it’s a book about the stories we tell ourselves, about love and relationships, about inheritance and memory and nostalgia, about terror, about notions of ‘home’ and new senses of ‘place’, about living, and indeed aging, without every really figuring out who it was you were supposed to become, when all the while—instead—you ended up being a sort of reaction to things that happened, a constant fabrication of selfhood, perpetuated by the stories you told yourself, and projected through your voice, as you told the world of yourself.
Danny Denton is an Irish novelist, the editor of The Stinging Fly and a lecturer in creative writing at University College Cork. His first novel, The Earlie King & The Kid In Yellow, was published by Granta Books in 2018, and nominated for ‘Newcomer of the Year’ at the Irish Book Awards. Among other publications, Denton’s work has appeared in The Stinging Fly, Southword, Granta, Winter Papers, The Dublin Review, Guardian, Irish Times and Big Issue.