Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Our Treasured Fourth Estate - Again

So Joan Brady didn't after all say that she'd had to abandon her literary novel and could 'only' write thrillers because fumes from a next-door shoemaking workshop had made her stupid - as Mark Lawson appeared to accept, and as I discussed in an earlier post.

In an interview with the Guardian today she tells Stuart Jeffries what really happened: that when the shoemaker moved in next door, first the noise stopped her working, and then she became very ill with the fumes (which turned out to be extremely poisonous and which have affected her health permanently), so she stopped working altogether. She then spent eight years fighting the situation and the council, who, far from supporting her, issued 15 court summonses against her for building a wall on a listed building to try and keep out the noise and fumes.

When she was able to begin writing again the novel she wrote was the result of these years of struggle - fuelled by anger and a terrible understanding of what it is like to be powerless, themes which were perfect for the thriller form.

That's exactly how it is for a novelist: if it's to have any pulse, what you write must come from your current obsessions, and any radical change in your life while you're writing a novel can mean you simply have to abandon it. When you start again it will be from a very different place, and often the work you were forced to abandon will no longer have meaning for you, and you must write something different altogether.

Brady sounds pretty angry, too, about the current misrepresentation:
"I haven't dumbed down. I never said it. That's the pure invention of the Times. They have decided that this effete literary woman has become so stupid that she can no longer write boring literary fiction and writes poorly selling thrillers instead. My mental faculties haven't deteriorated. And anyway, what an insult it would be to thriller writers to suggest that you need to be stupid to write them. It seems to me so irritating that you would denigrate a remarkable genre where much of the best writing is done. I'm a great admirer of writers like John Grisham and Scott Turow."
Newspapers, eh?
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