Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Literary Lenses, Writing Jumpers and a Prize Draw: my Virtual Book Tour

For someone so keen in theory on separating the work from the person of the writer, I am revealing a ridiculous amount of stuff on my virtual book tour: this week, on dovegreyreader scribbles, I even talk about my ruddy writing jumper! I'm beginning to think it's a joke, my having these principles...

We do also however talk about a more serious matter: whether short stories are 'miniatures' concentrating microscopically on the minute details of life, or whether they are something much more potentially dynamic and less cosy, capable of telescopically encompassing huge themes.

And this week there's a prize draw: a free copy of Balancing on the Edge of the World to each of three winners who leave their names in the comments section.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Response Time

I've been feeling kind of silenced lately - blog-silenced, that is. First of all because my virtual book tour has been taking up that bit of my brain I leave open for logical thought when I'm trying really hard to get on with my own writing, but also because what seems (from the depths of my latest story) to have been the literary sensation of last week - the row over Geraldine Bedell's book and the Dubai literature festival - has left me pondering, pondering, pondering rather than commenting...

Thing is, this so often happens to me - I'm often late to the bone-picking feast and sometimes I never get there at all before it's too late. I read a piece in the paper or on the web, and I think, Well, I need to think about this. And when I've thought a bit I think, Ah, yes, but is that really the case? How do they know? Where's the evidence? Etc etc... And so I don't feel qualified to have a bracing clear-cut opinion.

And what I'm pondering now is: is this what happens - the embarrassing situation in which Margaret Atwood has been placed over this issue - when we put too much trust in journalistic reports and respond accordingly too fast? And is this something to which the web, with its culture of quick-fire response, is contributing?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fact versus Fiction

Today the Bitch abandons her principles. Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with my arguments against biographical readings of fiction, and as a writer in the past I've avoided discussions about the real-life triggers or 'components' of my fiction as reductive and leading to mistaken biographical readings of my work as a whole. Many of the questions of my virtual book tour, however, have centred on the writing process, so it's sometimes been hard to avoid.

This week the question has arisen: precisely HOW do I turn a real-life incident in to a fiction?, and I have had to bite the bullet.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bad News, Old News

As if we didn't know it, the BBC Money Programme spells it out: literary writers, independent publishers and independent bookshops are suffering - although Will Self recommends cleaning Amanda Ross's stairs for her.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Virtual Book Tour: Stealing Stories and the Literary Dinner from Hell.

The latest leg of my virtual book tour is now up on the blog of novelist Sarah Salway, whose own excellent collection of stories, Leading the Dance, I wrote about here.

Discussed are the way so-called short stories can encompass huge themes, and whether or not stories can be 'stolen'. I also comment on our current literary climate by describing my idea of the literary dinner from hell.

You can get to it here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Zadie Smith on Two Ways for the Novel

My friend and colleague, writer Sam Thorp, alerted me to this which to my shame I missed, an insightful article by Zadie Smith for the New York Review of Books, in which she compares Netherland by Joseph O’Neill and Remainder by Tom McCarthy, and the ways in which they represent two warring strands in what she calles 'our ailing literary culture':
From two recent novels, a story emerges about the future for the Anglophone novel. Both are the result of long journeys. Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill, took seven years to write; Remainder, by Tom McCarthy, took seven years to find a mainstream publisher. The two novels are antipodal—indeed one is the strong refusal of the other. The violence of the rejection Remainder represents to a novel like Netherland is, in part, a function of our ailing literary culture. All novels attempt to cut neural routes through the brain, to convince us that down this road the true future of the novel lies. In healthy times, we cut multiple roads, allowing for the possibility of a Jean Genet as surely as a Graham Greene.

These aren't particularly healthy times. A breed of lyrical Realism has had the freedom of the highway for some time now, with most other exits blocked. For Netherland, our receptive pathways are so solidly established that to read this novel is to feel a powerful, somewhat dispiriting sense of recognition. It seems perfectly done—in a sense that's the problem. It's so precisely the image of what we have been taught to value in fiction that it throws that image into a kind of existential crisis, as the photograph gifts a nervous breakdown to the painted portrait. (More...)

To my mind this article is spot-on. Thanks to Mark Thwaite for the link.