‘But part of it is, yes, it’s easy to get lost in America.’ Those words, from an interview with the radical American activist Bill Ayers, provide one of the epigraphs to John Burnside’s new novel, Ashland & Vine. Ayers was a founding member of the Weathermen, the group that conducted a bombing campaign against public buildings in the United States in the 1970s to protest against the country’s participation in the Vietnam War. He spent nearly eleven years on the run after bombing the Pentagon in 1972, using different identities to take cover in the disparate places of America.
The place of such fugitives and how their actions and aliases lurk in the American imagination are among the themes of Ashland & Vine. But the notion of a country in which it is easy to get lost applies here not only to those people who have wilfully disappeared themselves,