On the awful thrill of a good maze

January 27, 2019
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Last year, I read two really wonderful books about mazes: Follow this Thread by Henry Eliot, and Red Thread: On Mazes and Labyrinths, by Charlotte Higgins. I can’t stop thinking about them. Eliot is the creative editor at Penguin Classics (if that makes it sound like the best job in the world is already taken, I regret to inform you that I think it might be), while Higgins is the chief culture writer for the Guardian (oh dear, the other best job in the world has been filled too). As you might expect from the titles, both books use the tale of Theseus and Ariadne as a means of launching beautifully constructed tours through the overlapping worlds of art and literature and mythology and human chaos.

And Eliot’s book has something that makes it particularly interesting to people whose minds are filled with games. At the heart of Follow This Thread is the story Greg Bright, who emerges as one of the greatest, and most daunting, maze designers in history.

According to Eliot’s book, it was at Glastonbury in 1971 when Bright, who was 19 at the time, first considered building a maze. He immediately asked Michael Eavis if he had a spare acre or two of land that he could use to try his hand at creating one. Bright said later that Eavis probably expected him to camp for a week or two and then move on. Instead, he spent the next year in a field that was “too wet for…cows”, working without a plan at first, and “concerned with the rhythms that would be imposed on the maze walker”. The music of chance!

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