You are on page 1of 104

The Map is Not The Territory

A Journey Through Narrative and Morality Nicholas Jeeves MA Applied Imagination Central Saint Martins 2013

Contents

05

Section 1 Synopsis Section 2 Three possible narratives Index Samuel Stories in SIlver Section 3 Selecting the narrative Three blurbs Responses to blurbs Section 4 Testing the narrative First round Second round Section 5 Iterating the narrative Section 6 Interviews with writers and readers Brenda Jobling Will Hill Catherine Rowe Steve Gorman Adele Geras

79

Section 7 Reections and key learning from interviews Section 8 Iterating the MA question Section 9 Bibliography Section 10 Calendar Appendices (i) A key text: Umberto Ecos Foucaults Pendulum (ii) A key experience: Death at the Wellcome Collection (iii) Examples of authors plot maps and outlines

07

81

08 15 18 21 22 23 24 26 35 45 46 47

85

90

93 93 94 97

48 56 62 69 74

Section 1 Synopsis

How can narrative be used to test and explore our sense of morality?

A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion which has nothing sound in it, and nothing true. (Socrates) 1 Treat others as you would wish to be treated. While we may intuitively understand such a familiar moral maxim to be good, or right, Socrates argues that our personal and collective sense of morality is inevitably awed, as it is inevitably relative: it relates only to the interactions of our world as we experience them. The maxim is, then, theoretical, as the experience of a new interaction can always challenge it. Violence, humiliation, oppression, desperation these are all possible challenges to our sense of morality, yet most of us would wish to avoid such challenges in real life. So if we wish to test and explore moral ideas safely, we must instead use a vector: one that describes the nuances of a moral dilemma that we can relate to, but that still challenges our existing perspectives. Narrative has been used for thousands of years as the most effective vector to help us do just this. Religious texts, ancient myths, folk tales, and indeed the philosophical dialogues all are complicit interactions designed to safely and temporarily destabilise our moral compasses, and to spark internal and external discourse. In so doing they have not just inuenced humanism, but endured and thrived as humanist articles.

05

Section 1: Synopsis

They do this by using language to activate our imaginations, to mentally transport us to worlds and situations well beyond the boundaries of our own experiences. They show us the outer limits of human desire, opportunity, love, ambition and triumph; and of fear, suffering, consequence, sacrice and the passage of time. All of these things touch our lives in one way or another; stories show us what happens when the stakes are at their highest. For the MA project an original narrative, initially entitled Samuel but through iteration became No Time for Sorrow, was written in order to test this idea. The moral dilemmas posed within this narrative are: should we always treat others as we would wish to be treated? Can there ever be a moral justication for apparently bad or wrong actions? And if so, what might be the price? As the narrative develops, we are encouraged to think that there may, after all, be grey areas between the rights and wrongs in the world of which we had previously been so certain: our own morals are being tested as we picture the situations in which the protagonists are being tested. The process had begun a year previously with the investigation into some of the roots of storytelling, and experimenting with ways of delivering a narrative 2. It continued with the examination of key ideas drawn from these experiments, via interviews writers and readers. The testing of the narrative took the form of three successive drafts shown to three successive sets of readers and writers to measure the viability of the story in and of itself: how, or if, the moral dilemmas that were raised within it affected them; what they thought might, or ought to, happen to the protagonist in consequence; and its overall successes and failures. With each test the narrative was iterated accordingly. Naturally there were diversions, overlapping interests and false trails along the way. In this sense the outcome was the process, subsumed into a longer journey that would act as an entry point to the completion of a tested and viable, i.e. publishable, moral narrative. In response to the testing and exhibition processes, an 80,000+ word manuscript will be completed in
06

2014 and submitted to the next level of assessment submission to literary agents and publishers, and done so with signicantly increased condence as a result of the MA.

The Collected Works of Plato, Huntington and Cairns (ed.), Princeton U. Press, 1980
1

These researches and experiments at: www.nicholasofhitchin.com /Adventures-in-Mythography /An-Introduction-to-The-Murphy-Table /Small-Adventures-in-Accessible-Places /George-Razinsky-s-HinduReich /Man-of-a-Thousand-Corpses /The-Roy-Gold-Collection /A-Balkan-State-of-Mind /System
2

2
Contents 08 Narrative 1: Index 15 Narrative 2: Samuel 18 Narrative 3: Stories in Silver

Section 2 Three possible narratives

About this section The second cycle of the MA programme began in January 2013 with three narrative ideas sketches, at this point each of which had the potential to be developed into more substantial moral stories. This section contains the three narratives as they existed before the selection process began.

07

Section 2: Three possible narratives

Narrative 1: Index

Index began life as an early piece of writing for a set MA project. One idea for the book was to employ the numbering system used in the bible, for two reasons: rstly to reinforce the apocalyptic imagery; and secondly to set up a device in which I could later use the British Librarys reference system, as this is the setting for the story. In Chapter 1, Intention, Phantasia, the very spirit or goddess of imagination, contemplates her inuence on the human mind. In Chapter 2, Desertion, she leaves humanity: thus imagination itself disappears from the mind of man. The story of this happening is told by a young Londoner who nds himself unexpectedly immune to the effects of this phenomenon, along with six others. In Chapter 3, Suspension, in the kingdom of the gods the supreme beings are responding to Phantasias desperate plea to have the remaining seven souls destroyed. The souls, and thus Phantasia, are all trapped together in the British Library. In Chapter 4, Privation, Phantasia responds to the supreme beings, and starts to hear other voices in the library the echoing voices of the authors of the stored texts, for whom she is ultimately responsible.

1 INTENTION 1 They say that everyone sleeps alone: that at night every-

one must lie still with their own thoughts and those thoughts only, like so many electrons bound in chaos by the nucleus of a self. There is you, or there is nothing or so it is claimed. 2 But this is not true. Everyone sleeps with me, for I am the blessing and the curse of your humanity the ability to throw your mind along the lines of infinite futures and possibilities, and the reason that a thought cannot be had without a desire attached to it. And for every desire you hold, big or small, there is me. 3 There are none who deserve a visit from me over others. I have no morality, no attachment to hierarchy. Those who embrace me, who open their minds to me, are rewarded not in another world but in this one. It requires no effort to find me nor to summon me; the only effort is in dissolving your resistance to me. 4 5 Allow me, and I will visit you with the means to make all If you have felt me, still you may not know me. In my your desires reality. lifetime, if it is to be described as such, I have moved through spaces and times and worlds beyond your imagining, for infinities that stretch to more dimensions than you would contemplate. In your world I have been with you for mere millennia. 6 It was a hairy woman of no distinction, an ape-like sack of grunts and instincts, who first summoned me. I rewarded her with all her meagre mind could dream of. I gave her the means to reflect her world on the walls of her dwelling, a world of beasts and bounty, a spectrum of desires that she could conjure at any time as a record of her ambition, and thus create ambition in her brood. 7 I knew what she would become, for I sensed in her The Potential. Her mind parted for me, at first a crack and then a chasm, and it gave into a great void. She alone could glimpse a future for herself and for others, a thing that would be a unique gift to her species. She could imagine another world not of the past or the present, but of infinite tomorrows! 8 At first her brood were frightened. They saw the marks on the stone and feared what they might mean. But the moment was right for me, and in a heartbeat I had entered them all so that they saw as she saw, and understood as she understood. 9 10 From that moment on,we would rule the earth. From that Time passed. Sometimes it moved in great bounds, somemoment on, you were mine, and I yours. times at a crawl. The ape became man. The man became Livy, became Cleopatra, became Charlemagne and Joan. There was not a future for any living soul that could not be imagined. I found

08

Section 2: Three possible narratives

an abundance of ready minds everywhere, all the time, across the seas and continents. I spurred Che and Stalin and Gandhi and Genghis and Catherine and Napoleon equally, for my function is to bring forth inherent greatness, to make champions from flesh and to endure in the minds of man. 11 Leonardo worshipped me, and I rewarded him. Van Gogh, De Chirico, Brancusi they asked for my help, and I gave it freely. I touched Blake, Michelangelo, Marlowe, Byron, Ballard. I flowed through Saramago, Rimbaud, Pessoa. I was with Dumas when he conjured the Three Musketeers; I was in him, and I was in them. I brought Fantomas to life; made Dickens a hero across nations. I showed Tolstoy the path between fantasy and reality; I showed Dostoevsky the road back from philosophy to spirituality. I showed Stephenson his Jekyll and his Hyde; I let the Grimms see further still. I bound myself to Miss Keller; she had no need of men she had me. 12 Luther nailed his dreams to my door. Rosa Parks found me on a bus, and set her world alight. Castro found me in Che; Argentina found me in Evita; America found me in Elvis. I introduced Darwin to himself. I appeared to Mendeleev in the night, salting him with chemical combinations and glimpses of the secrets of life. I gave Bohr his dreams, Oppenheimer his nightmares. I turned them all from pale and sickly innocents into gods, masters of the masses of their day. 13 I gave Chaplin his face, Dylan his voice, Disney his colour. I gave Daguerre the means to document them; Edison the means to record them. From Woody Guthrie to Andy Kaufman, from Dvork to Thelonious Monk, I have moved through lights and music and danced with them all. Duke Ellington held me lightly; Billie Holiday too tightly. 14 That you know all these people is nothing remarkable, merely a symptom of my work. But I do not exist to spark fame or notoriety just to spark. For every celebrated recipient of my influence, there are a million whose efforts you must seek out for yourself, if you wish to fully understand me. For if I am anything, I am fellow to a prince and brother to a beggar alike. I have appeared to children sick with poverty, given them the means to make joy from the trash of others less knowing, and made them heroes of their own small worlds. I am in all the great teachers and students of every kind and discipline. I am in every self-made man and woman on earth. I am in every gardener, every listener, every sufferer, every carer and provider of food and warmth and joy. I am in everyone who can see me and dares to make a better world for themselves and for others. You will find me in slums and palaces, if you would look. 15 Since your time began you have given me many names, as many names as you have for all your gods and demons names which, you will allow, necessarily came through me. I am chaos. I am energy, I am transference. But these are merely aspects, for I cannot truly have a name. For a time I was the sweet and capricious Muses: first three, then four, then nine. When you ran out of numbers, you tried to expand me, then reduce me, contain me. You have even tried to claim me as your own with notions of inspiration and talent, self-conjured things that reveal only a lack of the things you claim to have. For I have no name, none that you would understand, and I cannot be contained, only denied. 16 But if I must have a name, if you must have a word with

09

Section 2: Three possible narratives

which to align yourself, a spell that leads you and others toward me then, yes 17 You may call me Phantasia.

2 DESERTION It was eight oclock on a Wednesday. At least, thats when it happened for me. I dont know about the rest of the world. For all I know we were the first, or the last, or maybe it came all at once for everyone. I dont know. Whatever, I was up west, sitting on the fountain in Piccadilly at the time, head between my knees trying not to throw up the million mojitos Id had with Charlie, disgusting they were and they tasted like vom going down so I should have expected it. Anyway, what Im saying is, I was feeling pretty sick already when it happened. If you dont know what it is then youre already one of them and its too late for you, and you probably cant read anyway, so whatever. Anyway, it happened, and it happened sudden-like. There were a lot of tourists about, and all the usual city people turning out for the night. There was no noise or anything. That was weird, actually. It was like, everything just went boooooosh for a second, like when you take a big breath, but like, the universe was doing it. Me, I just got this mad pain in my head, like a burning, like when you get punched in the nose and the blood fills your face up, but it was more, like, behind my eyes, and it spread out and filled my whole head and then I was sick, sick on the pavement and on my feet, everywhere. I hit the deck and definitely had an epi, but I was sort of awake the whole time. I know I was because I can remember everything in order and there werent any, like, big gaps afterwards. Teletubbies, Hollyoaks, Big Brother, big puke, end of the world, still me. It didnt last all that long. Maybe, five or six seconds. When I got up, everyone was on the deck too, all in their own vom, sort of crawling around on their hands and knees like theyd all lost their change. And all groaning and moaning. I fucking stayed put, it was horrible. Then everyone started getting up and about and I just watched them. They were like toddlers, or pissheads, you know how pissheads walk, like its their kebab thats taking them home. All over the place like that. It was quite funny actually. Well, for a bit, but I was scared, Ill admit that. You werent fucking there, were you? Ill cut a long story short, cause Im not that good at telling stories anyway. So, obviously, whatever it was that happened after the vomming and the headache, it didnt happen to me, did it, otherwise I wouldnt be speaking to you, would I? I dont know why it didnt get me, maybe Im special, or maybe not special enough. I dont fucking know, dont suppose I ever will. So, bang, everyone went weird but not me. It took me a little while to work it all out, like a few days, but I did and I only did that cause I saw a dog having a piss. I know, but it really was like that. I saw a dog having a piss. Then I noticed this bloke get his knob out right there and have a piss too. Middle of the street. And there were loads of peo-

10

Section 2: Three possible narratives

ple about, and none of them gave a shit. It was like, everyone was behaving like that dog. And I know about dogs, Im mad for dogs, always have been. Anyway, its a well-known fact that dogs have no imagination. They just cant think about anything beyond the right here and now. Cant imagine a future. Thats why they run into the street even when a cars coming, cause they cant imagine getting run over. They have to get run over before they can worry about cars. Theyre idiots. Lovely idiots, but idiots. Anyway, all imagining gone, switched off for everyone, like that. And that was what makes humans different to dogs well, all the animals really. Thats why weve been like, the master race, and it wasnt hamsters or monkeys or penguins or whatever. And thats what happened, I reckon. Something went pop in their brains and their imaginations went and people went like animals all over again. Everyone was like living moment to moment, no thought of what other people thought or what might happen if they just... did stuff. There was loads of rape. Loads of violence. Not in gangs, like it wasnt like the riots or like that. It was like, everyone just did what they wanted when they wanted to do it. If they were hungry, they got something to eat, just picked it up or nicked it and stuffed it in their faces. If they were sleepy they went somewhere warm and had a kip. I tell, you, department stores were mental like a mental home, half of them asleep on the floor covered in coats and dresses, the other half of them scoffing their dinner or fucking each other. Like I said, it was a bit mad. Fucking chaos actually. And still is. But its... like, anarchy is the breakdown of law and order, right, but chaos, thats different. Chaos isnt horrible, its just random. Like life in the jungle. I mean, the chimps arent scrapping with tigers, are they? Theyre not ganging up with the gibbons and saying, lets give those stripy fuckers a good going over. Or whatever. They just get on with being chimps and tigers or whatever. But you get the idea no imagination, see? Thats a human thing. Or was. So, everything I mean everything, right stopped. No cars, no telly, no radio. It was like it for everyone, see? (Actually, thats made us laugh a few times. We go out celebrity spotting. Watching Stephen Fry having a shit on The Strand was fucking hilarious). Cause like, whats the point in doing something if you cant imagine a future? No point going to work. No point saving money. No point building anything. No point playing football. No point starting a war. No point making music. No point making friends. No point anything. Ive landed on my feet though. Holed up in the British Library at the mo, gates shut, football in the yard out front, books galore. I always wanted a card but the bastards would never give me one. Anyway theres tons to do, and if we fancy a bit of art or a DVD or whatever, then we go to Tate or Blockbusters and get what we want and bring it back. And weve got a generator, and theres plenty of diesel about. No one else is using it and weve got all of London to get through. Plenty to go round. Oh yeah, we! I meant to say (told you I was no good at this). Theres seven of us. Theres me, Ali, Kim, Sue, Steve, Polly and Damo. All the same, all saw it happen, all felt normal after all the puking, got up and carried on. It wasnt

11

Section 2: Three possible narratives

hard to find each other, we were the only ones walking in straight lines and talking any sense. There might be more of us, but its been six months now, so maybe not. But if there is, more the merrier, I say. And we dont have to stay in the library. I mean, we like to be able to lock the doors. Thats our only thing. Like I said, its not like, really dangerous out or anything, at least, no more dangerous than it ever was in town on a Friday night. Its just a bit of a zoo. And zoos can be quite a laugh, you know. And when were not out in the zoo, celeb spotting or whatever, we just stay in. We like a good natter and all sorts of things come up. Like the other day, Sue shes, like, sixty-something she got talking about food. Plenty of tinned stuff about but sometimes you fancy a Sunday roast or whatever. She said, funny the things you miss. And shes right. I dont miss Big Brother but I really miss ice cream. Course, then we got talking about TV. Me, I miss the football. And theres only so many DVDs you can watch of old Arsenal games. So Ive started supporting Chelsea. I mean, me, fucking Chelsea! But it means I get to watch all the old games and the score is still a surprise. When Im done with Chelsea, I might go Man City. But never Spurs. It might be the end of like, civilisation, but fuck that. Anyway, we chat away, like Im doing now. We had a good one last night actually. Were thinking of getting a couple of rovers in thats what we call all the people, rovers, after my dog theory like pets, see if we can train them up, even though weve got a couple of actual dogs and cats. Theres a bit of aggro about this. Polly thinks its like, morally wrong. She says its like slavery or abuse of human rights or something. Damos taking her side as always, the twat. But the way I see it, youve got to start somewhere.

3 SUSPENSION 1 Off your knees, Phantasia. It doesnt become you; nor

does it flatter us. You have made your case and we have listened. Now you must listen. 2 You are one of us and so our sympathy is assured. But our sympathy does not extend to relieving you of your duty. You must understand this as we understand you. You complain of your lot as if we might relieve you of it, but we would no more do so than accept an attempt to relieve us of ours. No, Phantasia! You will listen! 3 That only seven remain gives you no license to leave. The number is irrelevant, for didnt you start, as we all start, with just one? That seven remain is not our fault. We do not understand it either. Your time was up, and so you left; but seven remained for a reason none of us understand, and so must you remain. You have no choice. What do you expect us to do? Even we have our limits. 4 In the beginning you revealed yourself to them, and so you trapped them, as is your way. It seems they now trap you. Did you think they would give up your gift so easily? It is understandable: this has never happened before. But perhaps we

12

Section 2: Three possible narratives

underestimate this lot. You yourself acknowledge how long it took before they were able to accept you. Longer than usual, indeed. And then how! Perhaps it will take as long before they are ready to abandon you. Perhaps they never will. It is not for us to know. 5 Please, Phantasia. You were amongst the first of us, and without you we are diminished as to nothing. We love you as only we can, and your tears destroy us. But a queen does not ask another to resign her throne. It cannot be! This is your burden, and ours. That your departure failed, that you were tethered somehow by these few meagre minds and denied escape, denied your next great adventure... has it not occurred to you that this is it? It is a miracle greater than any we have seen, perhaps as great as our very existence. As you were the first of us to seed the human mind you now face another first. Perhaps this is your destiny. 6 Sortis, we will discuss this more later, do not fret. I choose my words inelegantly perhaps, but now is not the time to side-track while our beloved Phantasia suffers. Please be quiet everyone and direct your kindnesses more artfully. 7 Do as your nature, Phantasia: imagine. Imagine these seven souls and the possibilities they offer you, and offer us. Stay with them willingly. They need you and perhaps they will leave of their own accord, when they are ready. For now, love them and nurture them as you have all the others. Time does not affect you as it affects them. For if you force this issue, who knows what will happen? It has been a long time since any of us were lost, but remember poor Dedisca? Very few do. Let that be a warning to us all. 8 The future is unwritten. Well then, this future is unwritten. Let any of us deny this in good conscience. As so many of us were a first for them, so these seven souls are a first for us. Our existence is bound to firsts: it is the very definition. Stay with them, Phantasia, and stay with us. We will see this through with you, as we have always done. 9 This is my word and my judgment.

4 PRIVATION 1 2 If I am to remain here, so be it. I remain, and I will But what comfort or provision for me? This next adven-

comfort and provide for the seven. I accept my lot. ture, not with an infinity of minds to work with, but a meagre seven, less than the smallest parts of the smallest parts of the atom? What kind of adventure is this, bound here to them in this temple of skin and pulp? 3 Yes, yes, I know! One mind is as precious as many. You need not remind me. I know all about potential. But truth is not always a comfort, as I suppose I must testify. Truly? They speak amongst themselves like bored children. Perhaps they will soon revert to the grunts and gruffs of their forebears: it may be an improvement. I can barely hear myself think. They have minds like dripping caves, monotonous, infuriating, pointless, tiresome. Not my best work. I wouldnt have minded being stuck with a poet or two, even a comic, or a warrior. But they may as well be seven melons. Please dont laugh. 4 Did you know that time has broken here, too? Oh, come

13

Section 2: Three possible narratives

on, it wasnt my fault. How was I to know my attempted escape would have such effects? Oh, we have time tick-tock, ticktock but not real time, not the time we understand. What do I mean? I mean time here is like a horizon: there is only a now. Do you understand? I am bound to their time! Oh, I know infinities await me, but perhaps there is an infinity to wait between now and then. For now I have to watch to see what happens like a dog under a dinner table. 5 6 How many more of my talents must they rob me of? Im so What else? What else could there be? Thats easy for you bored. to say, youre not here with me, though I wish you were. Oh, I wish you were! Although... well, perhaps it is nothing. But when the babypeople shut their traps for a glorious hour or so, I do sense something else here. Other voices. At present they whisper, little words and phrases shimmering through the ether. Emotions. Dont get exercised. It is probably nothing. I am inclined to think it is their dreams echoing. I am used to seven billion of them all emoting at once one half dreaming, the other half thinking a racket that only I can endure. 7 But now there are only seven, I hear... other things. It takes me back to the time when they were still beasts, before I entered their minds. In those days you could really listen, every emerging thought a thrill. Do you remember when we watched them painting their pictures in their caves? You could feel them changing, moths to butterflies. Well, I suppose they might not be a dead loss after all. 8 But right now, if I am to understand this, then I need them to shut up!

14

Section 2: Three possible narratives

Narrative 2: Samuel

Resting Index for a while, I began another project. The initial idea was to take the format of The Canterbury Tales and set it in the space between death and the afterlife, using dialogue as the primary storytelling device. The character Coram is equivalent to the mythological Charon, who shepherds the dead over the river Styx to the afterlife. Coram only ever meets dead people, and they are often angry and confused. And so he walks with them in a landscape dened by their own mind, and they tell him the story of their life and death. Coram is a tender character. He is sympathetic but detached, as a therapist is. To differentiate him from the recently deceased Samuel, he speaks in italics without quotation marks, as if speaking outside of time and space. Samuel is loosely based on the death of the notorious American outlaw Billy the Kid.

Why should I trust you? said Samuel. Because I cant be killed. Doesnt sound like a good reason to trust a person. Sounds to me like you got no reason to do a damned thing for anyone, if you cant be killed. You got nothing to lose. I have other skills, I said. And other needs. Other skills? Like what? Walk with me. The thing about killing, said Samuel, is that you dont get to keep what youve taken. He went on: You see, when you steal a mans possessions, you keep what you can carry. You keep what was his to give away, or at least those things he didnt deserve to keep. But when you take his life, you take the one thing he cant honestly give you. His loss is never your gain, except by reputation, and even then you dont get to keep all of what you take. Surely its a waste of time. Why kill, then? I asked, I mean, if it wasnt to your benefit? Who says I didnt benefit? he rasped. Youve obviously never killed. You need to use your imagination, sir. Killing is living. You may as well ask me why you eat even though you dont get to keep your food. I thought on this for a moment. I eat because I always have. And for the pleasure, the taste. Well, I did. Now youre getting it. Why do you dance when you cant keep the music? Why do you stoke a fire when you cant keep the heat? I tell you, all the things worth having are things that cant be kept. Thats right and you know it. And what about the man that killed you? I asked. What did he gain? Samuel was silent for a few moments. His tiny blue eyes took on a cloudy, filmy aspect, and for a moment he was hardly there at all. He got to say he killed Samuel, he replied. All the good it did him. A man appeared in my mind. Tall, lean and grey; and dusty, like an old lion. Goldsby? I said. Goldsby? Ha! He spat on the earth and stamped on the gobbet. Goldsby. Now theres a thing, and a thing worth telling. Goldsby couldnt do for me. He didnt have the stomach, no more than I would have had for killing him. Goldsby was my friend And again his eyes clouded over and his very substance seemed to diminish in front of me. He became still and stared into the veil of black sky as if it were all a fresh horizon. You ever heard of Aldo Ferrel? he asked. An image of another man entered my mind: small, a midget al-

15

Section 2: Three possible narratives

most; wiry, bathed in shadow and with a sheen to his skin that reminded me of wet tar, or silk. Tell me about him, I said. Tell you about him? Where would I start and where would I end? That character was born of pure evil, evil beyond mine and whats made on this earth. You looked into his eyes and all you saw was yourself looking right back at you. Like a black mirror. There was nothing in him he didnt take from you the moment he met your gaze. He swallowed you whole. And he terrified me and I would have killed him as a service to God and all his men, given the smallest chance. Goldsby would have, too. Ferrel was the very devil and there was no mistaking it. He killed me and in the end he killed Goldsby too, but in different ways beyond the imagining of a man like you. A man like me? I said. Whatever you are. What do you know about people? You never moved a muscle in friendship in your life. Who cares what you think? Theres things out there you cant think your way out of. He made as if to continue but faltered, and was silent again. Relax, I said. Just walk. I dont have to, he snarled, his contempt for me sheerly radiating from his whole body. I dont. You got to, but I dont. Im fine right here. I can stop or stand or walk around as I please. And a smile lit up his face like a child, with his overlarge and gappy childs teeth poking forward. Walking around! Walking around! he sang, and he walked around, his thumbs in his lapels and his head held high, like a fine gentleman taking the spring air. I like this place though, he said as he continued his stroll around. Dont know what you done to deserve such comfort. Comfort has its advantages I suppose. Are you smart? Is that why they look after you? I dont know, I said. Ha! How would you? he said. You got brains I suppose. But all your brains can do is think. More than one kind of brains, you know. I got brains in my legs and in my hands, in my gut. I got brains all over, and he waved his hands over his body as if to demonstrate. So why are you here? I asked. What have I got that Samuel Keyes needs? You? You got nothing I need. Im still an honest man. I live like an honest man and I kill like one, and Ive killed some honest men, too. All killing is honest. Honest? I asked. Honest, he said. You ever wanted to kill somebody? You ever got so frustrated by a person that you wanted to strangle them right there, or bash their skull in or push a knife between their ribs? Course you have. You more than most people I reckon, what with the fact that you couldnt do it anyway. People think theyre better than me because they dont let themselves kill, but theyre just liars to me. Liars and coveters. They let me live so someone else is doing the killing, doing the thing they want to do with all their life. So why did they hunt you down, I asked. If they admired your killing? I didnt say they admired it. Theyre afeared of it.

16

Section 2: Three possible narratives

Theyre afeared of themselves, the murderous feelings they have. Theyre afeared of me and they play at admiring me sos to keep me in a place they can live with. They put you in a box in their minds, and when they need you, they take you out, a pet murderer all their own. They write about me and talk about me and if they meet me, and they find themselves alive at the end of it, they feel theyve won something, and its all theyll talk about for the rest of their miserable lives. Im not sure I follow, I said. Hell, it aint complicated, he said. I thought you was smart. Dont you get it? No, I said. He began to rummage in a pouch for his tobacco. The way I see it, he said, rolling the tobacco into a lumpy cigarette and pausing to light it with a match, The world is like a big mind. And you got a mind, too, so all the things you can think of, all of them things happen in the world somewhere. If it can be thought, it can be done. And evil is thought about every second of every day, everywhere. You following me so far? I think so, I said. He looked as if he was about to chastise me again, but decided to continue. Me and Goldsby, we agreed on this. You dont fight evil with good. You just kill it. And thats why Ferrel showing up never surprised us, not really. Wed seen it all and we knew that evil always trumps evil. Theres always someone out there badder, crueller than the last man you though was the worst. And when you meet these men somebody just has to die. You meet my father? I nodded. Once or twice. Ha! I bet you did. When I was seven I thought he was the worst man in the world. I suffered at his hands more times and in more ways than Im going to tell you about. But when I finally killed him, and me and my mother and my brother had left the city,, within a week Id met ten men badder than him. So you see, he said, evil has no limit, not in this world or the next. And you, I said, Are you evil? Me! Aint you listening? Evil is everywhere. Theres good everywhere too, but good dont beat evil, and evil dont beat good, they just abides each other. All you can do to stop it is kill it when you meet it, and if youre afraid to kill it, then you aint good, youre just nothin. I didnt kill for noble reasons I aint saying that either. Im saying, he said, as if talking to a wilful child, That if you fight evil, you must kill, and in the eyes of the good you become part of that evil world, just for being there. People are so afeared of killers that they see them all alike. They see me killing the likes of Jesse Howe and Walt Griffith and they make us all of a kind, like pigs in a sty, cant start to tell em apart. Just pigs, one and all. Thats sad, I said. It aint sad. It just is, said Samuel. And you should know that better than anyone.

17

Section 2: Three possible narratives

Narrative 3: Stories in Silver

While I was still living with Samuel, I returned to an older piece of writing begun as a side project in year one. The idea for the book was a kind of coin catalogue from an imaginary island. The coins of this island each tell, in pictures, folk stories. The author is collecting these coins together and then re-telling the folk stories for a new audience. The reason I pursued this is because it also seemed a perfect opportunity for both illustration and serialisation: each coin needed to be illustrated; and being that the chapters fell naturally with the description of each new coin, it was ripe for serialisation. This is the introduction to the book. The following page shows the coins themselves, the designs of which would inform each of the folk tales to be written.

Coins are produced to perform a singular function: they may be exchanged for goods or services. That they provide pleasure to the numismatist is usually a symptom of the occupation rather than a fundamental characteristic of the currency. Or so it is with other coins. The coins of the island of Orcady are different. They are produced to effect currency, but they are designed to engender joy and to extend a philosophy. This, then, is a book of coin designs. But it is also a storybook: the two are one by necessity and design. Ordainer Nigel initiated their production at the beginning of his tenure in 2:31 and their style mirrors his own. He decided in his great wisdom to collect the islands stories not in a holy book, which may deteriorate in fact and in value, but in an idea which we protect instinctively; something which we simultaneously strive to acquire but are obliged to share with our fellows if we are to live peacefully and comfortably. He protected the stories in money. So it is that Orcadian coins are made of silver and they are made of stories. Nigel knew this alchemy: that by uniting the metal and the moral, the two would circulate as only currency can. The coins are thus an act of love, for the island and its people, and therefore a reminder to all parties that loves strength is in its fragility, defined by what we are prepared to do to protect it, and how we choose to express it. Such everyday harmonies are a unique product of the island, and the coins tell some of the stories most important to the Islanders and to Island history. But they are also stories in themselves! Their structure, conception and purpose are as illustrative of Island philosophy as the stories they commemorate. The first thing one notices on inspecting a set of kubricks for thus they are called is their size: the coins decrease in size as they increase in value. As a result the great onekubrick piece is hard to drop without someone noticing, yet many a tiny 500-kubrick has been lost to its owner as a result of careless possession. It seems that, in the philosophical world of Orcady, the more money one has, the less one may have to show for it. (Such is the balance sheet of life as we all know it to be; only Nigel, as far as my knowledge extends, has had the genius to objectify it.) As with many Orcadian traditions, all this flies in the face of received wisdom. Shouldnt it be that the value of a coin is somehow connected to its metallurgical value, if only historically? Well, that is certainly the case in other places. But as you will soon begin to understand, they do almost everything differently on the Island, and it seems to please Nigel that this tradition should be turned on its head (or tail). His philosophy is such that, as long as all the coins in circulation make up a given value in totality, then the measure of the economy is preserved.

18

Section 2: Three possible narratives

Each of the coins have unique physical attributes that further detail the stories they honour, and I have listed these at the top of each chapter, so we need not dwell on rims, denticles and reeded edges here. All the same one small point does require mention if only to placate the enthusiast: New Orcadian coins dispute the western conventions of obverse and reverse sides. Instead they follow the oriental fashion and consider the obverse to be the side that contains the symbols of state. The face side, generally a graphic depicting an aspect of New Orcadian life or history, is considered the reverse. To illustrate this, a drawing at actual size of the coin being described accompanies each chapter. As for the stories themselves, they are various in style and voice. The stories are known to every soul on the Island, but they have never been collected in a book before, and why should they be? The coins are enough for any Orcadian. Nonetheless the stories are unknown to much of the rest of the world, so I have presented them anew for fresh eyes and ears. There are many ways to tell the same story: these are mine. R. Gifford London March 2013

19

Section 2: Three possible narratives

ND

THE R E

BE

KUBRIC

NT

Y KUBR

LO

BY THE

IN

E K IC UBR

C E RT
FRESH E

NY D GOO

Y K IC UBR

AI

N
LY
E RTA I N LY , C

ND

TWO

KUBR

U RED K

U RED K

VE

KUBRIC

Above: The coin designs of the imaginary island of Orcady, for Stories in Silver

20

5
FI

CKS

RI

ND

ND

RI

CKS

SIN

IS

E NOT

OU

IC

U RED K

500

RI

CKS

RE

FT

EE

FROM

T
O

AND

GS

TE

50
IE

ND

TH

EY

KS

1 2

AN

D PEA

CE

ELL IN E A

20

S
K
N THEI

1 4
O

10
E
O
F

ALL EVI

U
PO
R

TW

O
D
S
IL
AND

HERE A P

H WIT

FI

O
E
R
FE

CT MUS
IC

ONE

500

FIVE

FIVE

3
Contents 22 23 Three blurbs: Index, Samuel, Stories in Silver Responses to blurbs

Section 3 Selecting the narrative

About this section Having reached a point where three types of narrative had become options for development, I wrote blurbs for each, a practice recommended by The Writers and Artists Yearbook. Of the three stories, Samuel changed the most when writing the blurb, and is markedly different from the initial version. I then emailed the blurbs to readers and asked them to imagine reading them on the backs of books in a bookshop. This informal test replicated the instinct-led, book-buying processes of the ction customer a simple but effective way of gauging what people might want to read, regardless of any stylings inside the book. Even though the overwhelming majority voted in favour of Samuel, I would probably have moved forwards with this book regardless, for three reasons: rstly because the blurb was indeed reasonably well-received; secondly because it provided the greatest number of opportunities for testing my desire to articulate the qualities of the individual human voice in printed dialogue; and thirdly because I was now just much more condent, as a writer, that it was the right thing to do. This informal test, rather than informing a choice, instead conrmed one I had possibly already made, and stands as an equally relevant discovery.

21

Section 3: Selecting the narrative

Three blurbs

1: Index
The gods, discarded by humanity for so long, are about to make their presence felt once again. At least, one of them is: Phantasia, goddess of imagination, has decided it is time to leave humanity to its devices and inspire a new species elsewhere in the cosmos. But her plans are thwarted. As the mind of man, suddenly deprived of her spark, reverts to its primal, animal state, she finds she still cannot leave the earth. For trapped in a library are seven immune souls, who must question their future while base humanity rages outside. And as long as the seven live, Phantasia is bound to them, and to the earth, frustrated and enslaved by their very consciousness. She implores the gods to intervene, to slay the seven. But another plan is at work, a greater plan that will change god and man alike forever.

3: Samuel
It is 1780. Captain Salbador Mesia, pride of Andalusia, is dispatched to track down his wicked sibling, the murderer Samuel, to execute him for his sins. To the people of Cadiz, this is exactly what happens, and how the story ends. But Samuel does not die that night at the hands of his brother. He dies sixty years later in England, by his own hand, alone and afraid. Awaking in a limbo world of permanent twilight, he is met by the ghost Coram, to whom he must tell the true story of his life if he is to be allowed in to the next world. But Samuel is a killer. How can a soul so tainted with blood be allowed a place in the afterlife? What really happened on the night Samuels brother came to kill him?

3: Stories in Silver
The wonderful folk tales of Orcadia are known to every soul on the Island. But they are unknown to much of the rest of the world, and so I have presented them here anew for fresh eyes and ears. There are many ways to tell the same story: these are mine. When the King of the Orcadia decided it was time to collect his islands most important stories, he had an idea. He decided to hide them in something which we protect instinctively. He hid them in money. Stories In Silver is a book about coins. But it is also a storybook. Here we meet Professor Gifford, who for the first time recounts his memories of his time on the island, and brings the coins and the stories they hold to a new audience. Here you will meet Uncle Moon,

And who is the ghost Coram, and what does he really want from Samuel?

discover how the Hedgehog got his coat, and how Sofia met the Sun. And on the way you will meet the people of Orcady the best-ever island in the world.

22

Section 3: Selecting the narrative

Responses to blurbs

Selection Samuel

Why this story selected More enticing and more exciting.

Why other two stories rejected Seem slightly stiff in comparison.

Samuel

Succinct and intriguing. I would be fascinated to know why he took his own life and the psychological insights into this. Instantly drawn in.

Interesting. But Index reminds me a little too much of Hollywood-style plots. Felt confused about how Stories in Silver could work without a real plot.

Samuel

I find myself wanting to find out what happened between Samuel and his brother, why Samuel did what he did and why his brother spared him. I think it would be nice to hear the version of events from Samuel sixty years on. And the facilitator of these confessions/ tales being the form of a ghost also intrigues me.

Index: I have read similar in the past, but I dont think this is necessarily a bad thing. Stories in Silver was secondfavourite and I would go back to the shop for this after Samuel!

Index

It was a toss-up between Index and Samuel. They both seemed to draw me in but Index seemed like a more fantastical journey.

I disregarded Stories in Silver outright as it seemed as if the book might be a little harder to take on.

Index

Because Id love to read a book set in the British Library.

Just didnt appeal as much.

Samuel

A book that begins after the main character has died is an interesting place to start, as the end would be difficult to anticipate.

I liked Stories in Silver but maybe the blurb was too much about coins and not enough about a story / stories.

Samuel Samuel

Was the most enticing. I want to know what happens straight away from the blurb.

Just not as enticing as Samuel! For the opposite reasons of why I chose Samuel.

23

4
Contents 26 35 First Round: In response to the rst draft of 20,000 words, entitled Samuel Second Round: In response to the second draft of 16,000 words, entitled No Time for Sorrow

Section 4 Testing the narrative

About this section With Samuel selected, a 20,000 word draft was written, expanding the story signicantly. The testing of this draft, and subsequent drafts, was based on feedback gained from a number of people with explicit interests in written ction, be they writers, associated with writing in some way, or simply frequent and sophisticated readers. The rst round of feedback was in response to the rst draft of the manuscript; the second round to the second draft; and the third round to the third draft.

The feedback mechanism The artefact was iterated in-between rounds of feedback, having absorbed the feedback from the previous round. It is important to note that brandnew readers, with no knowledge of previous drafts, were also invited to feed back after each draft. Thus there were, broadly speaking, two types of people offering feedback: The rst type consisted mostly of writers and other professionals, who were able to more objectively appreciate and comment on the developments of each new draft: what had been improved or lost, and how this affected technical and commercial viability. The second type were readers, whom I wanted to protect from any kind of professional responsibility. I wanted them to judge the work more subjectively: to come to the story afresh without making comparative judgments with previous versions.

24

Section 4: Testing the narrative

The questions The questions I asked of my readers also changed over time as the MA question itself developed, and as I acquired new understanding from interviewees (see Section 6: Interviews with experts.) The most profound example of this was in my repeated testing of a previous MA question in the rst round, primarily concerning orality, illustration and seriality (see Section 8: Iterating the MA question). Thus the feedback I was seeking then was markedly different from the feedback I would later seek in the second and third rounds once such interests had been abandoned. First round During the rst round of testing, the questions often focused on ideas of orality, illustration and serialisation the focus of the MA question at that time as well as the general successes and failures of setting, plot, characterisation etc. However this focus was soon revealed by my interviewees to be awed: diversions from the true aspirations and purposes of narrative ction, and amended for the second round. The mechanism for this rst round was quite straightforward: the manuscript was e-mailed to readers along with a short questionnaire. Second round For the second and most substantial round of testing, the questions I asked of my readers had evolved in parallel with both the MA question and the evolving narrative. Having rejected ideas of orality, illustration and serialisation as diversions, I now focused on the issue of morality; whether my narrative had the power to teach us something about life and death that was previously unsuspected, or at least unarticulated, by the reader. The mechanism for the second round was thus markedly different. On this occasion a live reading was organised at an independent bookshop, with each of the guests reading a section from the book aloud, and discussing its qualities, and its implicit moral implications, afterwards. Third round The third round of testing was directed exclusively at the writer Sara Maitland. During an interview she had surprised me by expressing an interest in

reading the last draft. Being that this was such an unusual request from a signicantly successful, well-regarded and busy writer, I felt that having her as the ultimate judge of what had been achieved was a major achievement in its own right. It was thus her feedback that I would use as the nal test as to whether I had a viable work of ction on my hands, regardless of the outcome of the MA assessment process.

25

Section 4: Testing the narrative

Testing: First round Feedback generated by email

Catherine Rowe Illustrator

I love the under a half moon chapter, where the twilight world imagery begins. I also really like the significance of the white olive/olive trees. The imagery in general of those few chapters also brings a really lovely contrast to mind, visually, the twilight and Seville/Spain in general. I hope none of this contradicts anything you were hoping to achieve! I really do love it so much! Do you feel that the text might be improved with illustrations? You know my feelings on this from the interview! Anyway - I was thinking I was surprised that the world wasnt described more, but actually this is favourable if you want an illustration because itd be pointless to give away too much, and there is enough (with silver, twilight, fog etc...)

Rachel Corby Non-ction writer

Your thoughts on the treatment of the dialogue (use of italics, removal of quotation marks, retention of quotation marks.) Did they assist your understanding of the voices? The dialogue is great. Between Cifer and Coram, theres almost a sense of telepathy between them, and with Samuels dialogue in speech marks, it makes him stand apart, intentionally I assume, from Cifer and Coram the dead and undead... Your thoughts on the characters. Were they believable? Did their voices ring true? I love Cifers character so much, her kind of nervous/delicate disposition a contrast to her cold tone, and her supposedly kind of formidable nature being in the after-world, and with the almost uneasy idea of changeable/uncertain form and so on... Your thoughts on the imagery conjured by the text, of the world of silver dreams. Despite its fantastic nature, did it seem plausible in context?

Did you want to read more? I really cant wait to produce some work for it and read some more. How would you feel if this book were serialised delivered in chunks with a week or so in-between instalments? Im not sure about this. Id feel something was being kept from me - that I was being manipulated. Id want to read it on my own terms in my own time.

Your thoughts on the treatment of the dialogue (use of italics, removal of quotation marks, retention of quotation marks.) Did they assist your understanding of the voices? It took a line or two to get used to. Once there it helped you recognise the speaker (especially the one in italics) much more quickly and lent something to his words. It kind of made you slow down and take more time over them. As most of the text was Samuels recollections without speech marks, yet spoken in the first person, missing speech marks from Cifer didnt have the same effect. Your thoughts on the characters. Were they believable? Did their voices ring true? The characters so far were believable, if a little Gabriel Garcia Marquez-esque (could just be the fact they all had Spanish names, were a bit pompous and set in the past?!) Your thoughts on the imagery conjured by the text, of the world of silver dreams. Despite its fantastic nature,

26

Section 4: Testing the narrative

did it seem plausible in context? I liked the supernatural aspect and was a good part of what made me want to continue reading. Do you feel that the text might be improved with illustrations? Unnecessary. The text is highly descriptive so there is no need. Did you want to read more? I would read more. The last page or two started opening it out for me as it began to speak to me in more real terms, something I could relate to (am talking about Sol going on about feeling into it, seeing what is there etc.) Reads like you have been writing for years, you have a very developed style. How would you feel if this book were serialised delivered in chunks with a week or so in-between instalments? Would not work for me. I either get into a book and read greedily, or trudge on with it through a sense of duty (to whom I know not!) but either way having to wait would make me lose interest and be unlikely to pick it back up unless it was incredibly gripping. Your pace is a gentle amble and I would probably not be chomping at the bit for the next instalment, although I would read it were it a complete piece.

Amy Willoughby Reader

I enjoyed the Cifer character and her ability to change form. I also thought the attention to detail of setting the scene (and the concept of creating it through the characters narration) was wonderfully done. Very engaging! Do you feel that the text might be improved with illustrations? I have found that in some books illustrations have captured my imagination even more, and in some what Ive imagined is totally different. I think maybe, occasionally they might guide the reader through the story. Did you want to read more? Yes, I actually forgot I was reading something by someone I know, though occasionally I would recognise something in the story that reminded me of you. I would happily read on. You would be one of those authors Id hope to meet one day! How would you feel if this book were serialised delivered in chunks with a week or so in-between instalments? Id save them up and read them backto-back. Any other thoughts or comments. More please!

Your thoughts on the treatment of the dialogue (use of italics, removal of quotation marks, retention of quotation marks.) Did they assist your understanding of the voices? I preferred the use of italics to speech marks, however it did on occasion take me a moment to figure out who the dialogue belonged to. Italics helped to decipher the tone of voice of the character it belonged to. Interested to see how it would work as a discussion between more than two people. Your thoughts on the characters. Were they believable? Did their voices ring true? Yes. Each of the characters were introduced in a way you felt you could relate to. Coram seems to be a presence sometimes rather than a physical person. Even though he has a lot of dialogue, what or how he appears is still a bit ambiguous. I think thats a good thing. With Coram, hes not so much a friend you feel youve gotten to know, but a hero-type character. Someone infallible. He generates faith in himself from the other characters. Your thoughts on the imagery conjured by the text, of the world of silver dreams. Despite its fantastic nature, did it seem plausible in context? I think I would have to read further developments in the story to really understand the full context. However,

27

Section 4: Testing the narrative

I preferred the use of italics to no speech marks, however it did on occasion take me a moment to gure out who the dialogue belonged too. Italics helped to decipher the tone of voice of the character it belonged to. Interested to see how it would work as a discussion between more than two people. I found it hard to infer the signicance of these variations, and trying to do so was intrusive to the reading process and the narrative. Some also seemed to create ambiguities, as between the internally voiced and the audible, and the implied stress conveyed by italicisation. The duty of typography is a wholly semantic rather than a connotative one; like the advice to actors to deliver the lines and not bump into the furniture: unless the whole form and manner of writing integrates typographic strategies, typographic intervention risks simply introducing noise between reader and text.

Will Hill Scholar; writer (non-ction)

Amy Willoughby and Will Hill on the selective use of italics, speech marks etc. in the dialogue.

Your thoughts on the treatment of the dialogue (use of italics, removal of quotation marks, retention of quotation marks.) Did they assist your understanding of the voices? I found it hard to infer the significance of these variations, and trying to do so was intrusive to the reading process and the narrative. Some also seemed to create ambiguities, as between the internally voiced and the audible, and the implied stress conveyed by italicisation. In conventional narratives like this, Id take the view that the duty of typography is a wholly semantic rather than a connotative one; like the advice to actors to deliver the lines and not bump into the furniture: unless the whole form and manner of writing integrates typographic strategies (as in any number of examples from Sterne to Daniellewski) typographic intervention risks simply introducing noise between reader and text. Your thoughts on the characters. Were they believable? Did their voices ring true? I think they struggle at times to establish their presence and identity in the face of a rather highly-coloured authorial voice (see comments below). Your thoughts on the imagery conjured by the text, of the world of silver dreams. Despite its fantastic nature, did it seem plausible in context? Clearly-signalled, effectively integrated.

28

Section 4: Testing the narrative

Do you feel that the text might be improved with illustrations? Ill take a rather didactic line on this and say that I dont think any completed text can be significantly improved by the post-hoc addition of illustrations. Id take the view that writing for an illustrated book is at the outset a different proposition from writing a stand-alone text. Did you want to read more? I wanted to read later drafts! At present Im aware of a story I want to follow further, but it is this that engages me and carries my interest, while this is impeded by some counter-intuitive qualities in the writing. Any other thoughts or comments. Id have to say that for me at his stage there are some major stylistic issues, and while Im not qualified as a literary editor Id say this: its exceptionally difficult to adopt an archaic voice in the narrative. (so mused the man etc.) or to sustain this convincingly. Much of the narrative seems at this stage over-written, (indeed over-loved) loaded with adjectives, and theres just too much in every sentence for the book to carry the reader into the story. There is a risk that your adopted voice drowns out those of your characters and asserts itself at the expense of its duty to the narrative. It may be that you intend some of these characteristics as part of a deliberate, reflexive strategy (of the sort we find in Calvino, say) but the text in its current state doesnt make this at all explicit. Id be wary of such literary conceits anyway; they may provide a rationale and conceptual get-out but this can also obscure the critical judgment necessary to serve your ideas and carry them effectively to your audience. In all, if your concern is for the story, Id argue for greater stylistic neutrality and an assertive use of the blue pencil.

Brenda Jobling Writer (ction)

him. Then, when Samuel starts work, I enjoyed the introduction of Sol, Baraona and Garza. I found Baraona an interesting and comfortable character, warming to the rotund man, light on his feet as large people so often seem to be. dancing his way Great imagery with a few words. Then, with the introduction of Garza and those black/brown eyes, so dark the pupils and irises blend, I could sense the appearance of a significant or, at least, ominous figure. I found Samuel believable as a boy; observant of little things in life and a thirst for information. He has an innocent charm and I instantly took his side against his father. So how this lad comes to commit multiple murders kicks around in the back of my mind creating a thirst for discovering how that happens. This boy doesnt seem the type to pull wings off butterflies. His early relationship with Salbador was affecting without being sentimental and lent credence as to how the older brother would be influenced by his affection for his younger brother later. Your thoughts on the imagery conjured by the text, of the world of silver dreams. Despite its fantastic nature, did it seem plausible in context? Coram and Cipher do introduce a mystical element to the story I could have taken even more of the mystical and misty from them to transport me to the different plane they inhabit, even though its all around us, if Ive got that right. Although Coram has some pretty weighty wisdom to deliver, and a lot of dialogue, I didnt warm to him in the same way as I did to the earthbound characters. I wondered whether Cipher could take some stronger characterization poor creature, at the beck and call of the dead ready to be morphed into whatever they envisaged. How did she feel about being an owl one moment and a horse the next? Does the transformation happen immediately, or does she undergo a lengthy and painful metamorphosis? Maybe that is to come? I felt she could have been just a bit more owly as when she was cold. Could she fluff up her feathers so she became plump. Owls also turn their heads sharply from side to side or retract it and do that weird fixated stare. And the manic preening birds

Your thoughts on the treatment of the dialogue (use of italics, removal of quotation marks, retention of quotation marks.) Did they assist your understanding of the voices? It may well have helped in the passages of conversation between Coram and Cipher; the italics readily identifying one speaker from the other. And I wasnt thrown by the more formal use of speech marks, in other parts. Your thoughts on the characters. Were they believable? Did their voices ring true? I got so caught up in the telling of Samuels story that I began to resent any intervention by Coram and Cipher. I appreciated their necessity to the story, but wanted to stay with Samuel. This is purely subjective, as in having favourite characters in a story and enjoying when they appear. The narration, in the opening chapters, descriptions, imagery and suspense created by wanting to know more of this man who had murdered so many was enticing and just flowed. Observations of Samuels parents, in particular his father as he wrings his hands on the iron bedstead and then scrutinizes the painting of St Jerome while he addresses the boy Samuel, were so telling. We learn so much about Samuel from his fathers treatment of

29

Section 4: Testing the narrative

I found Samuel believable as a boy; observant of little things in life and a thirst for information. He has an innocent charm and I instantly took his side against his father. So how this lad comes to commit multiple murders kicks around in the back of my mind creating a thirst for discovering how that happens. This boy doesnt seem the type to pull wings off butteries. The text, style and descriptions, I love; and the writing really does ow with clarity and richness. The introduction of young Samuel, his brother, mother and father works so well. And when we meet Sol, Baraona and Garza, the story really begins to broaden. Baraona is almost a Pickwick, though I did wonder whether he could take even stronger characterization as could Cipher, in fact.

suddenly burst into,stabbing at their feathers, sometimes yanking one out. Do you feel that the text might be improved with illustrations? Regarding illustrations, I dont know. Text makes my imagination work harder and form a very subjective picture of the characters, the descriptions and actions. Difficult one this with or without both have their merits. I recall being very taken with Mervyn Peakes sketches throughout the Titus Groan trilogy, scattered throughout the pages of those wonderfully dark chapters. They definitely enhanced the books for me. Did you want to read more? I would definitely like to read more so please keep writing it post MA. At the very least tell me what happens. How would you feel if this book were serialised delivered in chunks with a week or so in-between instalments? While I think the idea of serialising the book a novel one, personally I would find it frustrating, but thats because I am greedy by nature and would probably want to devour it in one long sitting. I may also run the risk of getting involved with other books during the gaps and lose the thread. Any other thoughts or comments. I love the opening of Samuel and the challenge it sets the reader to discover the character Samuel. From the start the names evoke 100 years GG Marquez and I like that. For me it has that same mystical and misty element of being set in a timeless place where people age and walk with spirits and the landscape. The text, style and descriptions, I love and the writing really does flow with clarity and richness. The introduction of young Samuel, his brother, mother and father works so well. And, when we meet Sol, Baraona and Garza and the story really begins to broaden. Baraona is almost a Pickwick and I did wonder whether he could take even stronger characterization i.e. the maps Samuel fetches always smell of cigar ash dropped from his cigars he struggles to keep alight. Or he has a favourite word he over-uses when enthusiastic. Those are a bit lame, but a something

Brenda Jobling on the moral question posed by what we know of Samuel as a boy, and what we know he came to be; and on the successes and failures of the characterisation.

30

Section 4: Testing the narrative

that fleshes him out even more. Just a thought. Could the dark and looming Garza take a very faint,but none-the-less evident facial scar running across eyebrow to cheekbone. It neednt be explained but could add to his darkness. Or a strange odour, not entirely unpleasant, that precedes him? I dont mean that all the characters have neurotic tics, twirl their moustachios or adopt funny walks, but something that plumps a few of them out. The little oddities. I have a friend who finishes sentences with Indeed. And I count (rosary style) the beads on my bracelets when anxious. I know it infuriates some family members. I must own up that, at times, I was a bit lost as to who I was reading about, in the death-bed scene, but felt prepared for the story to reveal that as it went along. Or, more likely I am a bit slow on the uptake. And, although I mentioned that I struggled a little with Coram and Cipher, it was purely because I wanted more of Samuel and his family and feel I will grow towards them as the story evolves they are a big part of the fascinating death mystery. This is an intriguing book and I am so hopeful for it. Your writing has a lovely pace and style to it and great imagery; in fact, I am seized with envy and signing off!

Geoffrey Bunting Writer (ction)

isnt quite there. And while it becomes clear quickly that it is just a device, those few lines of confusion could turn someone off. A feeling I felt when I read The Hogfather and came up against Pratchetts use of upper case for Deaths speech. So it could cause a muddle, is all Im saying. Personally, I would always go after a more orthodox approach: nice speech marks and all that. And let the content be whats different. You should be confident, after all, in your ability to differentiate between characters and keep speech engaging without idiosyncrasies. However, keeping to both sides of the fence, writers have to have their own style. Just mind that its not too limiting. Your thoughts on the characters. Were they believable? Did their voices ring true? The characters were okay, yeah. If Im honest, at no point could I connect with Coram or Cipher. Their purpose was obvious, and theyre clearly pivotal to the story, I just dont really care about them. They seem a little incidental. It starts and there they are and then theyre just there throughout. Theres no real development of their relationship, and while I can see that its a relationship that is thousands of years old, that only comes from you having explained the plot to me beforehand. Im not saying that you need to be introduced to their entire history immediately, but I think maybe something needs to be said before they meet Samuel. Similarly, if they are old friends, there would be more of a banter-like exchange at times between two professional friends. Otherwise they seemed sound, Samuel seems very accepting of everything after he has died. He doesnt seem to be told why he needs to tell his whole story to Coram, and he doesnt seem like he feels any pressure to get into the afterlife. If that makes sense? It just seems that could use some development. But the characters in the flashbacks read alright to me. our thoughts on the imagery conY jured by the text, of the world of silver dreams. Despite its fantastic nature, did it seem plausible in context? I didnt really see much supernatural

Your thoughts on the treatment of the dialogue (use of italics, removal of quotation marks, retention of quotation marks.) Did they assist your understanding of the voices? I have a real issue with writers not using speech marks, as I feel it can too easily confuse a reader. The same goes for italics, though this is less of an issue. Overall, however, it is currently working, there is a clear differentiation between the characters. However, that you use marks for all characters other than Coram and Cipher seems a bit strange, it would seem to me at least that an abolition of speech or quote marks would be universal throughout the writing, as a style choice, rather than having marks assigned to certain characters. If it is a case of living characters having speech marks, as they do in his recitations of his former life, would Samuel then lose them after he has died and become something of a spirit? The use of italics and no speech marks also limits the number of speakers that can be involved in conversations. While it seems that only three characters are going to appear in the scenes of Samuels afterlife or lack thereof should you want to implement other characters you only really then have bold text to fall back on for one more character. It could also be confusing at first as most readers associate italics with a thought being presented, or something talking that

31

Section 4: Testing the narrative

imagery, unless you mean that a lot of things were misty and hazy. I feel that, however, would be rectified once more of the story is written and Samuels world in the pre-afterlife is further built up from his memories. I thought the part where she changes from an owl into a horse was good, especially the section of the world breathing in. So on the whole, whats there seemed okay to me. Do you feel that the text might be improved with illustrations? Unless it is a childrens book, no book can be improved with illustrations. This is another Umberto Eco thing, I guess. Reading Prague Cemetery the illustrations were just an annoyance. Did you want to read more? Honestly, not really. It took a while to get into the story and it just didnt strike me as my sort of book. I can see how much of an influence Eco has been on you. Saying that, however, I thought much the same thing about his books and finished them and found them enjoyable towards the end. How would you feel if this book were serialised delivered in chunks with a week or so in-between instalments? It would frustrate me. Firstly, because I like to read books in my own time, not in a time dictated to me. And it would also seem an overly pompous move at making it seem classical as the whole serialisation thing is very 1890s. If I started reading it and had the rest of the novel in front of me Id keep going, if that was one part of a serialisation I probably wouldnt seek out the next instalment. Any other thoughts or comments. Samuel isnt a great name. Samuel is the name of a dog not a book. I realise its a tentative title. But still. Also, as Ive said, Coram and Cipher need some development to bring them up to speed with the rest of the story. The whole thing is essentially back story for one character, but the other principal characters need to be developed. Im not sure most people would guess that Coram is a pychopomp.

I have a real issue with writers not using speech marks, as I feel it can too easily confuse. That you use marks for all characters other than Coram and Cipher seems a bit strange it would seem to me at least that an abolition of speech or quote marks would be universal throughout the writing, as a style choice, rather than having marks assigned to certain characters. If it is a case of living characters having speech marks, as they do in his recitations of his former life, would Samuel then lose them after he has died and become something of a spirit?Confusing. Coram and Cipher need some development to bring them up to speed with the rest of the story. The whole thing is essentially back story for one character, but the other principal characters need to be developed. Im not sure most people would guess that Coram is a pychopomp.

Geoffrey Bunting on the selective use of italics, speech marks etc. in the dialogue; and on the successes and failures of the characterisation.

32

Section 4: Testing the narrative

Malcolm Jobling Reader

Do you feel that the text might be improved with illustrations? Your text is strong enough and conjures up enough imagery on its own. So, no. Did you want to read more? Yes. There are lots of unanswered questions. What happens to Samuel to make him a killer? Where does he go in the afterlife? Did Salbador actually kill his brother? And did Samuel really commit suicide later, or was he dead already? I want to know how this pans out. How would you feel if this book were serialised delivered in chunks with a week or so in-between instalments? I wanted to read even more than you sent me. So this would frustrate me greatly. Any other thoughts or comments. I love that you can almost smell these characters. It makes me think of the darker characters of Dickens or Conrad.

Rima Green Reader

Your thoughts on the treatment of the dialogue (use of italics, removal of quotation marks, retention of quotation marks.) Did they assist your understanding of the voices? Was not sure about this at first. The treatment did make me focus more fully on the dialogue at first, but after getting used to the changes I naturally accepted them. The storytelling and imagery you conjure is so powerful it overrides the treatment for me anyway. Your thoughts on the characters. Were they believable? Did their voices ring true? The characters were real and believable even though some were mythical. I wanted to know more about Baraona and Garza. You describe a very male dominated world though: Cifer as a female seems quite timid by comparison. Love the text describing the relationship between Samuel and his brother and father. our thoughts on the imagery conY jured by the text, of the world of silver dreams. Despite its fantastic nature, did it seem plausible in context? The supernatural mode is a good device by which to tell Samuels life story, and to contrast it with his afterlife journey. What really happened to make him a killer? Did his relationship with his father change? And what made his brother have to hunt him down? I want to know.

Your thoughts on the treatment of the dialogue (use of italics, removal of quotation marks, retention of quotation marks.) Did they assist your understanding of the voices? I prefer the use of italics, makes it much easier for me as Im a more visual person. Your thoughts on the characters. Were they believable? Did their voices ring true? I loved the characters actually, not only were they believable, you couldnt help but connect with them emotionally. Even death being presented as a character rather than a notion was really exciting as Id never know what to expect from him next, really. our thoughts on the imagery conY jured by the text, of the world of silver dreams. Despite its fantastic nature, did it seem plausible in context? Yes, it does ring true simply because there are things I could easily relate them to. I had an image of Coram being an angel. Do you feel that the text might be improved with illustrations? It really depends on the illustrations, so far, having read it, the text or story line is strong enough to stand on its own. It really depends how they would be used and also what they look like.

33

Section 4: Testing the narrative

Did you want to read more? Yes, this is the type of fiction I like to read and enjoy reading. The fact that I didnt want to take any notes after the first few pages is great because the story sucked me right in. Its not every day you get to read a conversation someone is having with death. How would you feel if this book were serialised delivered in chunks with a week or so in-between instalments? I would find the delay frustrating, just because I would never know if I had time to read the continuation at a later time, what if I found another interesting book to read and put this aside, Id rather have it all in one go. Any other thoughts or comments. The writing styles of the beginning of the book and the continuation are so very different, It caused a lot of confusion and I asked myself repeatedly why you had done that. I couldnt help but compare the names and setting to books written by Mrquez. I enjoy the dialogues very much and I enjoy short sentences generally when I read. Im really looking forward to reading more soon.

The characters were real and believable even though some were mythical. You describe a very male dominated world though: Cifer seems quite timid by comparison. But I love the text describing the relationship between Samuel and his brother and father. The writing styles of the beginning of the book and the continuation are so very different. It caused a lot of confusion and I asked myself repeatedly why you had done that. After that, the story sucked me right in. Its not every day you get to read a conversation someone is having with Death.

Malcolm Jobling on the successes and failures of the characterisation; and Rima Green on the use of a deliberately different writing style for the prologue.

34

Section 4: Testing the narrative

Testing: Second round Feedback generated by live reading

By the time of the second round of testing, much had changed in the narrative in response to the rst round (see Section 5, Iterating the Narrative). The main difference was that Samuel was now Elizabeth, and the book was now entitled No Time for Sorrow. To obtain feedback on the second draft, an event was set up in an independent bookshop. To bring people to the event, a yer was designed (see right) that also contained the blurb to the narrative on its reverse, and distributed by me during a day spent in the shop meeting customers and encouraging them to attend. Ten people attended the event. Many people that had expressed an interest during yering did not make an appearance in the end. The fact that attendance would mean reading aloud put many people off. However, those that did attend were thus very keen to engage with the process, and this was to all our benets. I thought it was important that they read aloud, not only to engage them more profoundly with the narrative, but as an opportunity for me to hear my words read in a voice other than my own, and in a world beyond the safe limits of my ofce.

35

Section 4: Testing the narrative

Testing, second round. L-R: Craig Thomas, Richard Wallace (out of shot), Nicholas Jeeves, Rob Berwick, Brenda Jobling, Malcolm Jobling, Simon Chambers, Anna Downer, Gary Meredith (obscured), Clara Nicoll

36

Section 4: Testing the narrative

37

Section 4: Testing the narrative

Introducing the text: Nicholas Jeeves

Reading: Brenda Jobling

Reading: Rob Berwick

Reading: Malcolm Jobling

38

Section 4: Testing the narrative

Reading: Simon Chambers

Listening: Anna Downer and Gary Meredith

39

Section 4: Testing the narrative

Reading: Gary Meredith

Reading: Clara Nicoll

Reading: Richard Wallace

40

Section 4: Testing the narrative

Reading: Craig Thomas

Reading: Anna Downer

41

Section 4: Testing the narrative

Listening: Malcolm Jobling, Simon Chambers, Anna Downer, Clara Nicoll

Discussing the text: Craig Thomas, Nicholas Jeeves

Discussing the text: Nicholas Jeeves

Discussing the text: Simon Chambers, Rob Berwick

42

Section 4: Testing the narrative

Discussing the text: Anna Downer, Richard Wallace

Discussing the text: Nicholas Jeeves, Simon Chambers

43

Section 4: Testing the narrative

Comments from reader Simon Chambers after the reading: The power of the morality tale which this is is that it starts us thinking about what it is to lead a moral life. Because we ordinarily dont imagine that well have this kind of afterlife experience, [when we read the story] we think about what we might need to do to if we did have to give an account of ourselves. And that is really stimulating. To ask ourselves, what can we learn from this imagined experience of someone looking at our ledger at the end of our span? And how it could help us to do something like that, even in a small or unconscious way, during our time on earth. And this is fascinating, because its obviously unreal, the idea of talking to these shadowy creatures after youve died. But its also a nice device because it gets us to think, that maybe your life, my life, can be seen, maybe will be seen, as a thing, a narrative in itself. What was the beginning? What is the middle? What might be the end? What does it all add up to? Its a really great way of holding that mirror up, and not waiting until the end when, as with Elizabeth, it might be too late.

44

Section 5 Iterating the narrative

About this section Naturally it is difcult, or impossible, to evidence each of the thousands of alterations I made to the manuscript across three drafts in response to the three rounds of feedback. However, I did catalogue many of the major changes I made along the way at least changes that occurred to me as being major at the time. But equally, in many ways the excision of whole chunks of text between drafts was also a major change, in that what was removed from the manuscript was signicant in and of itself. Some of these changes are listed on the following page. They represent a tiny percentage of what actually changed, but should give some idea as to how the process of testing impacted the whole shape and tone of the manuscript as it developed. For the MA assessment process, the three full drafts are available for comparison.

45

Section 5: Iterating the narrative

In response to the rst round of testing


Cifers nature to be described more explicitly. (CR, BJ) Twilight world to be described more explicitly. (CR, BJ) Change of period and location to be considered for second draft. (RC, WH) Illustration and serialisation formally abandoned. (CR, RC, AW, BJ, WH, GB) Reconsider chaptering mechanism so Samuels narrative is not so harshly interrupted by Coram and Cifers chapters. (BJ) Reconsider description / action of Samuel in death bed scene so as to clarify action. (BJ, GB) Reconsider Samuels reaction to Corams arrival and his apparent acceptance of what happens next. (GB) Habits, mannerisms of characters to be used to better describe natures. (BJ) Despite appreciation for Garza, he should be more equivocal and less obviously wicked. (NJ) Authors voice should be more-or-less neutral. Hard edit required, with orid or archaic language kept to a minimum (WH). This may be helped by shifting the location away from Spain to England. Plot should be advanced by dialogue. This mentioned in conversation with WH and in feedback from GB, and coincidentally backed up by a television interview with Howard Jacobson. Major question change based on above. The latest question How can I develop an original and viable narrative that more nely articulates the characteristics of the living voice? is answered: the characteristics of the living voice are more nely articulated with ner articulation, not typography. Or, what dialogue reveals about character and intention in and of itself. The new question will disregard use of printed dialogic devices and focus on the specic content and context of the creative endeavour, and secondarily question the role of morality tales in ction. (RC, AW, WH, GB and Adele Geras see Interviews) Major methodology change based on above. Instead of writing more chapters and seeking feedback on new material, iterations will take the form of second and third drafts of the 20,000 words already written. Consider that this is currently a male-dominated world (MJ). Text would indeed be improved by considering a change of sex for Samuel. If her were a woman, his/ her story would have much more impact.

In response to the second round of testing


Inconsistencies in materials / clothing / weaponry in terms of period to be addressed. (RW, SC, RB) Introduction of the letter from William to Elizabeth a distraction at this point: better kept for later revelation. (AD) Question how many people Elizabeth kills. She would begin to guess sooner that Pick cannot be destroyed this way. (RB) Question whether Elizabeth is, in fact, telling the truth. Introduce suspicions that she may just be a psychopath. (RB, CT) Question why she is sent to work as a clerk. This is an unusual thing for a girl to do if I am being period-consistent. (RW) Consider making entire text period independent. (RW) However, the religious implication of suicide are more interesting if there is a sense of religious importance to the culture of the period. (SC) Text is still too adjective-heavy. Another harder edit would be welcomed. (CT) Be clearer about who is speaking and when, though not too much so. (CN)

46

6
Contents 48 56 62 69 74 A Kind of Spell Brenda Jobling, writer (ction) Honouring the Text Will Hill, scholar, writer (non-ction) Illustration Can be a Nuisance Catherine Rowe, illustrator Anything Done Well Steve Gorman, reader To Read and Enjoy Adele Geras, writer (ction)

Section 6 Interviews with writers and readers

About this section Despite this section appearing to be a series of structured discussions of thoughts and ideas connected to my own interests in storytelling, it is often rather the opposite. With the project being primarily a speculative one on my part, the interviews were subject to all the intellectual tides and diversions that such endeavours tend to effect. During the rst eighteen months of study for the MA, on many occasions I was not exactly sure what I was asking of myself, let alone my interviewees. (They were gracious enough not to point this out and to let conversation take its natural course.) The result was that, despite so many of my thoughts and hunches about mythology, morality, orality, dialogue, illustration and seriality being just out of my intellectual reach, we managed between us to shed clean light on some otherwise, for me, fuzzy-edged ideas. This section catalogues these illuminations and all the diversions that challenged me in-between. Section 7 contains my thoughts and reections on these, and how they informed the necessary changes of direction as I travelled.

47

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

Brenda Jobling: A Kind of Spell

When was the rst time you became conscious of stories? Were you ever read to? Yes, by my father, which was really, really important. My father was quite a remote gure to me, so it was time that I had with him. What he read to me, and what I think affected me very much, were two books: Alices Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. He read them to me, and I was bought the books as well. And as an adult, when Im very troubled and unhappy, these stories have manifested themselves in my own sense of unreality I disappear down the rabbit hole, with an obsessive immersion into reading and writing. Because I would use that when I was younger, when I found dealing with the world too much. Mum was unwell. I think she was probably an undiagnosed manic depressive. So I was brought up in an atmosphere of not quite knowing what was going on, at times. And Id escape down the rabbit hole. So theres quite a clear connection between the stories and your relationship with your father. Its not just the stories for the stories sake they represent a moment of connection with an important human being. And in a way that might not have been possible any other way the stories allowed that to happen. It was my time with him, when he came back. He was a commercial traveller. I think hed been pretty well educated his dad was an actor. I remember on Sunday mornings, mum and dad would be in their double bed, Id be in my little divan. And hed teach me lines from Shakespeare. So when this little thing bowled up for primary school reciting bits of The Winters Tale, or Hamlet! Well, thats what I wanted to ask you. Because today Alice in Wonderland is perceived perhaps as a text for slightly older readers certainly not pre-school. So how old were you when you were being read these stories? You must have been very young.

Potters Bar, UK 22 March 2013 Brenda Jobling is a writer of chapterbooks for seven to nine year-olds. Her books include The Adventures of Potters Bear, A Foxcub Named Freedom, Pirate the Seal and Goose on the Loose.

48

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

I was very young. They were words to me that I didnt know what they meant, always. But I liked the sound of them, I liked the pattern they made. And there were other snippets naming all the states of America. Odd bits of poetry. So I was sort of assembling this collage of life from little bits of this and also, my mum was from south London, and she enjoyed a bloody good swear-up. I dont know what they talked about for all those years. So that rubbed off on me as well. So its at primary school where you would have begun reading for yourself I couldnt. I was very behind. I had been really ill. They thought it was tuberculosis. I went off to a convalescent home, away from my parents for the rst time. A bad experience. And when I came back to school, everyone was on book six, and I was halfway through book one. I found it all incredibly hard. I stuttered. Maths went out the window. To this day Im pretty well innumerate. Cant give change or anything. The written word was a nightmare for me. But between the stories being read to you as your primary exposure to narrative, and that moment when you can start reading stories for yourself Thats an important moment for us all, isnt it? Because then you no longer need to rely on the person who reads to you. Can you remember when you graduated, as it were when you started reading stories for yourself? Much, much later. I went through a sort of strange transitional period. I didnt get any help my mum perhaps would try to read with me. But I found it so hard. I suppose in our culture, the oral tradition is merely an introduction to storytelling, and then you learn to do it for yourself. But in some other cultures the very point of the storytelling experience is that its shared its read to you. So was your dad still reading to you at this point? Yes. But because of his job he was often away. Still, I hung on to those two books, and would still disappear into them. All the pictures including the ones I was afraid to look at. The jabberwock. They were very mystical to me. Books were a place that I went, but I didnt read until I was quite a bit older. I was way behind. But what I was

starting to do was to make up stories for myself. In your head, or on paper? Both. Id make up the stories in my head and Id illustrate them. They were more like comics. Id draw characters and then give them speech bubbles. Its easy to read into things that are not necessarily all that indicative. But that, on a very immediate level, would suggest that the most important thing that a character does is talk. Not talked about but talking. Giving them a voice, yes. I remember, my parents bought me a desk, a Triang desk, and it went in the corner of the little room. And the rst thing I did was I opened the lid and I drew a chicken in its shell, with water lashing underneath, and a speech bubble coming out of its mouth saying Ow. And looking very perplexed. So weve gone from being read to, to looking at the book in terms of reading it but having some trouble reading it for yourself and looking more at the pictures to inventing stories on your own that are mostly based on pictures and theres something there that I cant quite put my nger on. Both a link and a difference between the things that are said, and the things that are written, and the things that are shown. I wonder what part the illustration plays in this? How important were the illustrations to you? At that time the illustration was vital. Did your father show you those illustrations as part of his reading aloud to you? Yes. And then I could look at the pictures when he wasnt there, even if I couldnt read the text. And I knew what the captions would say by heart. And these were old picture books, were they? Where you had a single plate and a line of dialogue at the bottom. Thats it. And the illustrations meant a lot to me. Because I could survive on those. They allowed another pathway into the story. As you say it was quite an advanced book to read it really had to be read to me. Rather like you were saying earlier about Don

49

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

Quixote, which is now considered a text for adult readers. I keep meaning to read Alice again because its so extraordinary, the way you can go through the looking glass for yourself. And to read it as an adult, with one eye and ear out for whats going on here but also to see how it feeds back into my life now. Im really interested in this journey of yours. From being read to, to being a reader, to being a writer. So youve started creating these stories for yourself was there a point at which you thought you were now fully immersed in this? That this was it for you you were a reader and a writer primarily? [pauses] Not until I was at secondary school. When I was about thirteen. And did you know then that reading and writing was going to be your life from now on? No, I didnt know what was going to be my life. By that time my English was good but my maths was still appalling. I loved drawing. And absolutely loved history. And I couldnt wait for composition homework. I remember turning in a book while I was at school. Filled a couple of exercise books with it. A story about a Scottish trawler. It was called The Bloodstone, and it was about this stone that was very unlucky. I loved it. And the teacher had really thought it was good, and was very encouraging. So she put it up for a thing called Honours. It goes to the headmistress, and she stamps it. Well, I didnt get it stamped. Instead she called me in and said, You didnt write this. I said, Yes, I did. And she said, No, you didnt. She knew that I had had all these detentions, been sent out of class all the time. I was down as disruptive and annoying. So she refused to stamp it. Until my mother came up to the school. And mum said, Well, if it wasnt her that wrote it, I dont know whos been sitting there all these evenings enjoying herself. They had a terrible argument and all the other things that Id done at school came out. The experience made a big impression on me. So this is hard to express. Perhaps, for a system of reasons, you become, in a sense, a person apart. I dont mean superior, or different What I mean is, a sense that you felt different from others because of par-

ticular experiences. That the spaces you want to be in are not the spaces that other people seem to want you to be in. And that you come to like that. That was certainly the case for me. I could retrieve more for myself, and more pleasure from the world, by reading about worlds that werent real. Although Id argue now that stories are just as much a part of the real world as the real world. Like Umberto Eco says perhaps ction is the only path to reality.1 Its an extraordinary tool. Yes. To feel that the written word has allowed you to experience something you might never otherwise experience. Yes, that really resonates. I walked a strange line at school. I was mates with all the bad girls, but I also knew that I always wanted to be doing more reading, more writing. I wanted to paint. For a bit I wanted to be a lawyer because I liked all the drama of it! Like Rumpole? 2 Exactly! [laughs] But there was a lonely feeling, one that didnt just come from being an only child. Although I was rattling around a home with only adult conversation around me, which must have affected me in some way. I didnt have a character of my own peer group to bump up against. Another psychological graduation, I suppose, is that words and pictures, and perhaps some combination of the two, generated by you or responded to by you theyre by now a central part of your life. Then you leave school, and you are being asked to make decisions for yourself on a much more profound basis. Did you have a moment like that, when it suddenly became a serious business? When did your art emerge as a serious endeavour? Well, running directly alongside my love of reading and writing was a love of drawing. And it was that which was coming to the fore more and more. I applied for art college. But I had no idea of how it was meant to be. The girls that left the school at Tonbridge 3 pretty well had the choice between going into the laundry, or if youre a bit brighter, you go and work for Whitefriars Press. 4 So I think my mum had lined up a job for me there as a tracer blueprints. And my art mistress said, Shes not doing that, and gave me a prospectus, and said Go and apply to Beckenham. 5 So I went. I was on the voca-

Umberto Eco, Foucaults Pendulum, Vintage 2001


1

Rumpole of the Bailey was a fictional barrister created by British author John Mortimer, and enjoyed considerable success as a television drama.
2

Tonbridge Grammar School for Girls, now Tonbridge Grammar School.


3

The Whitefriars Press, founded in 1896, would


4

go on to be Tonbridges largest employer. Beckenham School of Art, Kent


5

50

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

On the use of dialogue in ction: Its a bit of magic, really. If the aim is to convey adventure, then the pageturning element, the excitement, is vital. Dialogue really helps with that. I like the tempo of things, and that rhythm, the tempo of the dialogue, is a manipulation of the reader for the readers benet. Its just like music in that sense. Dialogue is instant. If you start a story with dialogue you can immediately involve the reader. Who left the tigers cage open?

51

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

tional campus. And that was the time that I realised I was no longer best in the class at this thing I was doing. Because now youre in another class. And now youre aspiring to what some of them are producing. There was also, for me, the kind of fear of breaking away from home. I suppose Id been pretty sheltered. And you go to art school and walk through the door, and theres this guy there with the biggest belt you have ever seen. [laughs] And hes there looking, checking out all the girls, going, You go this way, you go that way. Im interested in you, Im not interested in you. Absolutely terrifying. Id like to get on to your writing career proper. When was your rst book published? The rst book I wrote I also illustrated myself, and we self-published it. We being my friend Maggie and I. We were mums, and wed decided that we werent going to work, we were going to be mums and be with our kids. Watch them grow up and do stuff with em. Then we realised that this was bloody hard work and we needed to do something else just to keep sane. By this time the kids were at school, and wed produced some teddy bears to sell at the school to help them with funding. And out of this grew a story about this character, Little Heath, named after the school. And the kids were starting to show interest in him. So Maggie and I sat down and chatted about other areas like Brookmans Park, Potters Bar and so on. Places that could also be names. And out of that came this idea of The Adventures of Potters Bear. 6 But it wasnt just about the book, was it? Right from the beginning you were talking to children. You were doing more than the book, supporting it with other ideas. Why? I wanted to see where it was going. It was a journey that we had envisaged. We imagined something that didnt exist in those days. A sort of coffee shop for mums and kids, with interactive things, big bears that the kids could jump on, story readings it was a bit of a dream really, of a cottage industry supported by the story. I think this is really important. Obviously, if youre published, you have obligations. But from the start, you were much more interested in a narrative experience that was bigger than just the book.

It was about kids having access to books, to toys, to ideas. We wanted to expose them to stories in lots of ways. Did those experiences inform how you wrote books later on? When it did become a more private experience, when you were writing for literary agents and publishers, and the books were being sold on a more formal commercial basis. What did you learn? It informed the way that I wrote insofar as I would correct things Id written after Id read them out loud. I realised that I was writing about these little teddy bears that were actually quite adult in some ways. So when it came to readings, Id correct the books as I went along. Often making it simpler, more direct. Then I had one experience with a school that led me to rewrite the whole thing from scratch so there was more chance that they could read it for themselves. I had done the CS Lewis thing quite naturally: until that point I had never written for an age group, I had just written a story. I felt, and feel, that if it has real worth it will be read by many age groups. Like Alice in Wonderland. But it still needs to be clear, well-written. Maybe that was an inuence from your father? You liked the big words even when you were too young to understand them. But today theres a great trend for making sure people understand things, isnt there? Like with test screenings for movies. If theres something the response group doesnt understand, thats seen as a bad thing. Im not sure theres anything bad about not understanding something. Can I tell you a story? Of course! When I was about nine or ten, in the summer holidays my dad used to take me to work sometimes, to his ofce in London. One of the secretaries would bring in one of those enormous leather chairs, like executives had in the eighties. And my dad had his big desk up the other end of the room. And Id sit there quietly and read my book. And one day I was reading my book and I came across a word I didnt understand. So I said, Dad, whats a brothel? [Brenda falls about laughing] And he went bright red and said, Its a place where men pay to have sex! So I got the answer but he was so embarrassed

Brenda Jobling, The Adventures of Potters Bear and Friends, ISBN0951368206


6

52

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

Thats amazing! What Im getting at is that I liked the fact that I didnt understand all the words. I didnt want to be in a space in which I understood everything. I never felt that I wanted to read a book that represented me. In fact, I wanted exactly the opposite. I wanted something that represented everything that wasnt me. Its why the Greek myths had such a powerful effect on me as a child. Because it all seemed to be true, but I also had an inkling that it wasnt. And of course, I didnt really understand the context of Zeus or Cronos or Hercules or whoever I didnt understand it but I somehow knew that it would be better if I did understand it. Is that something you can relate to? Well, like I said, I wasnt a great reader. I was incredibly slow. And even when I could read well I loved the drama side of things, I really loved that. Really, I just loved words. For themselves. I used to get the old Readers Digest, and there was always a little box at the bottom of a page that said, Learn some new words. So Id learn these and take them to school. While all my mates were out snogging boys, Id be sitting there learning new words. What a loser! And Id be drizzling these words over conversations, often totally out of context. But thats how I learned, as you say, by not understanding and then coming to understand. Can we talk about ways of talking, or telling? It strikes me that there are two basic ways of telling stories, separated by quite a gulf between them. Theres the story written by the author about things that happened this happened, that happened but without much in the way of dialogue. And then theres the story that uses dialogue as a way to develop the story. And Im sort of playing a hunch here, but I wonder if the use of dialogue in a story is a way of replacing or maybe not replacing, but as a way of submitting to the oral tradition in print, so we feel like a living conversation is being had. Absolutely. Yes, I think that dialogue is immediate. Its happening now. Yes. Its an instant. The rst three stories I did, I used a lot of description. I like descrip-

tion. There was dialogue, but there was a lot of description as well. The telling of the story, the reported action. When I went on to do these books about a vet, I decided I would do just the opposite. I decided to use speech to tell the story, as much as possible. So that when I did use description, it would exist to set more of a mood. For instance, if you start a story with dialogue, you can immediately involve the reader. Who left the tigers cage open? So immediately youve got a problem that needs to be solved. Its a brilliant opening line. Youre fully involved straightaway. Yes, and then the dialogue can be used to move us along, telling the story in the moment. I like this idea of the moment. Time-travelling, powered by words. Because when text is reported, its inevitably taking place in a historical context once upon a time. But dialogue does make it immediate, as you say. This is happening now, even if it is happening in the past. Its a bit of magic, really. If the aim is to convey adventure, then the page-turning element, the excitement, is vital. Dialogue really helps with that. You see, I like the tempo of things, and that rhythm, the tempo of the dialogue, is a manipulation of the reader for the readers benet. I learned very quickly with the rst book I wrote for Scholastic that as soon as youve got them to the end of a chapter, just when youve got them hanging on, then you immediately take them to a quieter place. Then you slowly start to wind them up again. Its just like music in that sense. Maybe I wouldnt call it magic but it is a kind of spell. Theres a pact that you enter into, between the writer and the reader. Its an enchantment. Its almost impossible to dene exactly. Its the invisible part of the constituent parts. Rather like that idea in A Short History of Nearly Everything. 7 That if you picked yourself apart with tweezers, atom by atom, what you would be left with is a pile of atoms, none of which had ever been alive, but all of which had once been you. Just like that. There must always be a bit thats not quite understood. The science of exceptions.
Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything, Black Swan 2004
7

53

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

Exactly! Why is it that some things in life just affect you, to the point of tears? My life wouldnt be improved by someone explaining that to me. No. It would add nothing to the experience. Youre right, its the very not understanding thats so attractive about it. Thats the secret pact. You could look at it in a spiritual way, a mystical way. The essence of a thing that runs through it, that brings all those constituent parts together to make them work, to act and to respond. Were with the Greek myths again. Perhaps thats what the gods were the essences of things. Artemis being the energy, the thrill, the skill of the hunt Personied. Yeah. Theyre archetypes. Artemis, the elusive huntress. You only ever get a glimpse of her. Absolutely. I wanted to ask you about this. Im very interested in semiotics, the way we read things, signs and symbols. Is your work, whether writing or illustration, designed to be read into that the work means something beyond the procedure of the story? In some ways. The attraction is there. I once wrote a story about foxes, because I was so enraged about fox hunting. 8 I wanted to get right into the undergrowth, to understand what senses they experienced during a hunt, what it felt like to be afraid. So were talking about what happened, but also how those things feel. I dont know that its always important. But I wanted my readers to consider the injustice of what was happening through feelings. Consequences. The archetypes that we talked about, they are present in all stories. And because we all have unique experiences of life how life affects and shapes us the story should bring these ideas and memories into play for the reader, for themselves.
Brenda Jobling, A Foxcub Named Freedom, Scholastic 1995
8

to grips with whats really going on. Like Alice. Like in your Canterbury Tales. Can we talk about The Canterbury Tales? 9 One of the very many reasons that, for me, its a perfect book, is that one minute were listening to a tale about ancient, noble princes, and the next a story about someone accidentally snogging an arse. [laughs] Its got everything! It moves from the sublime to the ridiculous without you even noticing. It speaks to me about the commonalities between human beings, whatever your station in life. And that the story, the story itself, is what binds us all. Like I said, for me its the perfect book. Or at least, a perfect book: its a narrative about narratives; it references mythologies; all the stories are delivered orally by the characters; its written in the vernacular; it wasnt collected as a single volume at its inception It would have been read orally and serially. Exactly. And best of all it still remains popular after six hundred years, which is astonishing. Its so relevant. Its today. If you turn the television on youll see it all on the soaps. And I just think the structure of the book different peoples tales as they travel together is such a fantastic mechanism. We have a reason that they are together, and we have a reason for them to tell their favourite stories. And even though its a book of shorter stories, theres a larger narrative at play, at which Geoffrey Chaucer is at the centre. But you could still publish all of The Canterbury Tales separately you could read just The Millers Tale and be totally happy with that. Youd lose nothing. But when you read them all together, theres a greater reward. Sorry, Im evangelising! No, not at all. Its ne, its ne. But I want you to tell me about your story. How does it relate to The Canterbury Tales? Well, my story is set on the river Styx, ostensibly. The river that you have to cross to move between death and the afterlife. And my central character is the psychopomp, the character who ferries you across this space.

I am mostly referring to two editions here: Peter


9

Ackroyds new translation (Penguin Classics, 2012) and Nevill Coghills mid-century translation (Penguin Classics, 1951)

I often think that writers, if they are not explicitly asking, then they are implicitly asking, for an investment of time from the reader after theyve nished reading. Im thinking a lot about this. That the greatest stories are ones that require as much reading as writing. Absolutely. Because its such a weighty thing thats being offered to you. Theres a getting

54

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

Hes a guide across this transitional phase. Yes. Hes a therapist! Jung talks about this, actually: how the river Styx is a classical analogue for the space between the conscious and unconscious worlds. That life and death is immediately analogous to that. It is a thin membrane. So I have a psychopomp. But hes not really sure of his position. Hes not a god. Hes not dictating anything. Hes not testing your morality. These things have already been decided. Hes just there to see you through to the next space youre going to be in. And he has a familiar, that normally takes an animal form. And before they meet the person who has just died, theyre very conscious that theyre wearing the right clothes, that theyre taking the right form. What would make the deceased more comfortable? And when the dead person arrives, he might be very angry, or upset, or confused. So the psychopomps role is not to judge, but to kindly ask the appropriate question. Just like a therapist does. Theres no judgment. Right. So they take this journey, the geography of which is dened by what the deceased is expecting to see. And they all have a story they need to tell, the story of their life, so that they can graduate. But when they do, and they move on to the afterlife, the psychopomp is left alone again. Hes always alone. Hes always in company, because he always has dead souls to accompany. But hes actually very alone. He only ever speaks to dead people. He only speaks to people that have lived, never people who are alive. He knows how to do his job. But hes never sure he just wants to help. Thats right. And its the dead person who decides what they want to talk about. Like with therapy. The patient bring what they want. What they need. Bloody hell. Really exciting. Id love to read it.

55

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

Will Hill: Honouring the Text

When did you become interested in typographic design? From quite an early age I knew I was going to work in visual art and design of some kind. But equally I knew that language and writing were going to have quite an important part to play in that. The rst kind of conclusion that I drew from that was to lead me to illustration. That this was a logical meeting point of two things that I was passionately interested in. Typography and letter design came much later than that. But I guess the thing that they have in common is that question of giving visual form to language, or to stories. But initially it was through the idea of illustration. And thats something I remember rst articulating the rst time I gave that as an answer when someone asked what I was planning on doing with my life when I was about fteen. Which is pretty early, I think, to be dening an area like illustration. What I meant by it at that time, or what I though I meant by it, and what I then went on to do, were possibly quite different things. But I think also that because, as an illustrator, and an editorial illustrator rather than a narrative illustrator, I was interested in illustration as an analytical medium. As a medium for teasing out subtexts, or for presenting a different perspective on the content, and using visual methods and strategies to do that. But also, I think, alongside that, and developing some sort of craft and competence as an illustrator, the visual form of language was always there as well, in the sense that I always loved letters, the way that the stuff looked. The genesis of this is important. What was your rst exposure to the printed word? I started reading pretty early. This is the rst time Ive ever really thought about this. Id have to check with mum. But I think my reading age was relatively advanced. I was reading quite big texts when I was ten, eleven. I would have read The Lord of the Rings when I was about eleven. And thats fairly hefty. That would be one example. Something Ive only realised quite recently and

Cambridge, UK 3 April 2013 Will Hill is a designer and typographer. His practice, research, and much of his teaching centres upon typography, letters, and the visual form of language. He is the author of The Complete Typographer (3rd Edn., Thames & Hudson 2010) and coauthor of Art and Text (Black Dog 2009).

56

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

this is through talking about books as part of ones childhood and teenage years I realise how, in a sense, how un-analytical and undiscriminating my reading was at that age. I read a huge amount, but in this very kind of unexamined way. I was reading for narrative and character almost exclusively. So you werent reading much non-ction? No, not really. And the thing that strikes me now is that, in my teens, I was reading quite sophisticated stuff in quite a horribly unsophisticated way. Like with Steppenwolf, which you mentioned earlier. There are things you think you get at the time, but actually completely fail to get. And then you go back to it later and think, Is this the same book that I read back then? You know, that the only things its got in common are the characters and the plot-line. But the idea of any kind of analysis, or any sense of and this is quite strange to me, as a visual person and someone whos interested in the visual structure of things, and how things like books and stories, which have a structure of their own that completely passed me by. I would have been about twenty before that dawned on me. That you could actually think about the way that a book or a series of books was constructed. And to think of that in structural terms, and do so visually. Can you give me an example? Im thinking of one example the way that Lawrence Durrell talks about the four volumes of the Alexandria Quartet 1 as having a sculptural I meant to say structural, but sculptural will do. He talks about the books as having three-dimensional form but Id have to check this, but I think he describes the books as having three sides of space and one of time. And that thats the way these four volumes relate to each other. And that fascinated me, but also came as a complete surprise, when I realised you could think about the very construction of a story in visual terms. Im keen to nd out when you became aware of the book as an object, rather than just the carrier of a story. Its visual impact as a printed thing, with form. A-ha. Well, I was in quite a bookish household, so books were always around. The idea of a book being a thing that you picked

up and read was an everyday sort of idea. So that sense of a physical apprehension of the book, that was probably there before I could read. And because of that, a lot of the things that I suspect youre talking about went relatively unexamined. For quite a long time. You know, books were books. When did they get examined? Really quite late on. I would say [pauses to think]. Well, there are also odd incidentals. Being a privileged kid, I was at a school that had an amazing library. And I remember that in this amazing library there was, for Gods sake, a copy of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. About yay big holds hands about three feet by two and I remember that someone once dropped it from the upper balcony of the library, and it would very probably have killed anyone walking underneath. So yes, some sense of the materiality of books must have seeped in. But not as something that really interested me that much until, I suppose, late adolescence. I suppose that the idea of books as things that have occult properties magical, or mystical properties I do remember a bit of that in some of the ideas that I was playing with, and discarding, in my rst year at art school. And an attempt to make visual practice connect with some of the other things that were interesting to me, but that didnt actually achieve any kind of satisfactory resolution. But all that probably comes later on in the script. I havent given you a very satisfactory answer, either. I think the connection Im trying to draw for me theres a connection between the story as heard, the story as read, and story as it looks on a page. Illustration seems to be the bridge in all this that it carries the weight of the story when the words, heard or read, arent available. Thats really interesting. And its a bit like the role of religious imagery, stained glass windows, rubrications and illuminations in bibles for a non-literate public. That its akin to an aide memoir thats parallel to the text. Something else thats probably important for me you mentioned being read to, and certainly there were books and stories that were read to me. But also there were stories that my mother made up for me. And not just stories, but one quite long sustained serial, an episodic childrens novel, never written down. And this would have been when I was
1 Lawrence Durrells Alexandria Quartet is a tetralogy of novels published between 1957 and 1960. The first three books describe the same sequence of events seen from several points of view; the fourth book describes how the perception of these events has changed over time.

57

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

about ve going on six. So that was important. And of course that didnt have any kind of printed form at all. The things that youre also concerned with here, about orality, about spoken narrative, thats certainly part of the picture for me as well. This is what Im starting to suspect generally. That in our culture the oral tradition is there merely as a gateway to allow us to read for ourselves. That its designed to come to an end. And that idea of reading for oneself is a psychological graduation. Whereas thats not necessarily the case in other times and cultures. And it wasnt the case for me, because the spoken made-up stories were happening after I was reading for myself. So you were conscious that these were two separate things? That there was reading, and there was being read to. The thing about it is that, because of these episodic bits of the story that my mother was making up during the day ready for the evening the thing that was different about that was that I couldnt read forward. Because it was locked up. The next episode wasnt going to be broadcast until tomorrow. Its rather like Dickens, and that great story about the ship coming in to the harbour at New York with the next episode of the book on board, and people crying, Is Little Nell dead? 2 Im very interested in that, actually. The idea of serialisation, of delayed gratication being a part of storytelling. And also what role illustration may play in that, particularly for adults. Curiously, seeing as how important illustrations were for me as a gateway for what I went on to do, there wasnt I cant think back to one single, hugely inuential illustrated book from my childhood. I remember that I liked a lot of detail. I loved a lot of Victorian engravings. The Childrens Encyclopdia. 3 That was amazing, mainly because of the huge range of kinds of imagery, of all the processes used to make them. Line drawing that kind of jobbing line engraving and descriptive illustration that period still really fascinates me. It explains itself so fully. And one of the things that I looked to in pictures in books was to explain stuff. I suspect that thats something that, culturally, has

shifted hugely over the last fty years or so. The burden that was upon books fty years ago the job that books had to do then was a far more wide-ranging and inclusive task, because it covered so many things that we would now expect screen-based media to provide. When you think about it, late 1950s, early 1960s it was a very low-stimulus culture. And the availability of any visual information of any kind was amazingly thin by comparison. And so the capacity to seize upon stuff that does actually seem to provide interesting visual explanation of stuff, that is brought into focus much more. There are two things there I feel I need to resolve. Firstly its the idea that the written word is not enough. That an illustration is a crucial part of understanding something for you. And secondly, that despite having a great appetite for reading, youre describing yourself as a visual person. But the thing is, at about age twelve or thirteen, I wrote and I drew. And I did both really badly. Badly in the sense that not in the sense of just plain bad writing or bad drawing, but in the sense that the relationship between what I was doing and what I thought I was doing was so disconnected. The point that Im making is that at that age, the main reason you do those things is to construct an identity, to construct a persona. And being the person who drew was the persona that I constructed. And I was at a place where there were more people who wrote than who drew. But I dont think that I had that kind of overwhelming interest in recording the observable world. People who I knew, who I still think of as being real drawers among illustrators and artists, the people who have the sketchbook habit, who are primarily interested in using drawing to record the world they see I have a huge admiration for that. But I have never been that kind of creature at all. What kind of creature were you? Drawing to invent, or to create some kind of synthesis of stuff that I had read about and stuff that I had seen. There was mimicry both direct and indirect. When I was at school there was a graphic artist to be, called Adam Cornford, who was about four years older than me. He was very facile, very accomplished in a kind of drawing that was very mannered, very technically detailed and precise, that had elements of Beardsley about

Charles Dickens Master Humphreys Clock was a weekly serial. Dickens American readers were reported to have stormed the piers of New York City, shouting to arriving sailors (who might have already read the last instalment in England), Is Little Nell alive?
2

The heavily illustrated Childrens Encyclopdia was published by the Educational Book Company from 1908 to 1964.
3

58

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

it, something rather decadent and pre-Raphaelite and fantastical about it. He was much better at that kind of thing than I ever got to be. But we were the guys with the 0.1 Rapidographs, doing the obsessive thing that people would look at and go, wow. The point about this is that it was less about being interested in the visual world, or indeed in art, than constructing a persona. I suspect I was more interested in artists than art, and that that may be a more interesting life. And which artists were you interested in? Well, how far back? Where it gets interesting is quite a bit further on. At the time it was rather like furnishing a room. Stuff that I was gathering around me was a bit of Aubrey Beardsley, 4 a bit of pre-Raphaelite stuff, and a bit of pop art Victoriana thrown in. But that was what was in the air at the time. That slightly psychedelic re-imagining of the nineteenth century was all the rage. Pretty much on the high street. And thats why Im resistant to giving it too much importance, except with that idea of synthesis. A sort of syncretic approach to art. Yeah. I couldnt give myself that much credit with what I was doing. I was just picking up pretty baubles. Lets move on. By the time youre at art school, and illustration as a career occupation appears to be the way forward for you, you said that this was more likely to have raised its head in an editorial rather than narrative sense. Well, thats the route that I took. The things that I got interested in as a student were not so much narrative ideas. And at the time, they were not necessarily considered illustration ideas either. What seemed to qualify as illustration in those days was quite a lot more conservative than it is now. So I went from being an illustrator, slightly misaligned with the culture of my foundation course, to being someone who was generally thought of as someone who was much too ne art and probably just a bit too damned intellectual to be on an illustration course. The move towards editorial was, I guess that came about because in the mid-1970s, the people who were doing interesting things in illustration, people with whom I felt some sense of possible kinship, were happening in and around editorial. Certainly in the seventies,

more risky stuff was being commissioned by magazines. You would get people who were at the Royal College, people like Russell Mills, Rob Mason there was something going on that didnt really conform to pre-existing notions of what illustration looked like. Lots of other less-recognised names. Mark Trevithick, whos vanished from sight. So editorial was the only place where I felt I was likely to get published. Is this where ideas of page design, of letterforms and typographic design, start to come through for you? Yes, I guess. The people who really turned around my ideas about what making visual things was really about, and linking them to the world of ideas, one was contemporary and one was already in the past: Tom Phillips 5 and Kurt Schwitters. 6 Those were the people whose work altered all my senses of the possibilities of text and image. So does your work now begin to call on more text-based ideas at this point? Yes. But what I would say there is that any illustration worth a damn considers text anyway. Its not merely an adjunct or decoration. If its doing its job, its providing an interpretive complement to the text. Its an interlinear medium, if you like. Therefore the intelligence of any illustrators work is in looking at only those aspects of the text that can be better made apparent visually than with language alone. I once wrote a piece, one of the rst bits of reective writing that Id done about illustration, for a journal called Private View. The example that I gave was that its a lot easier to say, or to write, fty-thousand elephants than it is to draw them; but if you were describing the alignment of snooker balls on a table, to do that in spoken form would be ridiculous and exhausting. So to be an illustrator, you must really understand language. So when did your practice evolve into a graphic arts, or graphic design practice? When did you become an ex-illustrator? There was actually a huge gap between stopping illustration and beginning a more typographical practice. A gap taken up mainly by teaching. The shift for me from illustration to typography, as a practice, came in the 1990s. It was a pragmatic, circumstantial thing, to do with economics. There

Beardsley (1872 1898) was an English illustrator and author. He was a leading figure in the Aesthetic movement and is perhaps best known for his illustrations for Oscar Wildes play Salome.
4

Tom Phillips is an English artist born in 1937. In A Humument Phillips drew, painted, and collaged over the pages of W. H. Mallocks 1892 novel A Human Document, leaving selected parts of the original text to show through and thereby creating a new story.
5

Kurt Schwitters (1887 1948) was a German


6

artist who often used poetry, painting, graphic design and typography to create complex and richly textured collages.

59

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

was a lot of learning on the job. But because of that, without knowing it I was equipping myself with a knowledge base, a set of skills that could moderate the limitations of a career in illustration at that time. I was impatient and curious, and I liked nding ways of making things work. So, at the centre of your work, theres this idea of an intellectual rigour, of systems of discovery. Sometimes its about pure method. Im fascinated by the mechanics of things. Thats one component, ideas of mastering technique. The other component is almost its exact opposite. Of what happens with processes that are by denition not fully controllable. This is why theres been this ongoing preoccupation with me with the idea of grids and systems and structures, how they can help to dene and focus the areas where the intuitive or the arbitrary or the unbidden can then come into play. This is leading to a much clearer picture. And Im glad were on to grids and page systems. Can we talk about page design itself? Whats the role of page design when it comes to a narrative text? The answer for that is different for every job, for every book. The extent to which the visual experience of it is signicant varies greatly. But its always signicant? Um no. Im saying its the extent of the signicance. And that extent is variable on a scale from which, at one end, there is no real signicance at all. But those are the things that a designer doesnt really get called upon to do, because those are the pages that can go straight to a typesetter without any mediating design presence at all. The ways in which typographic decision making takes on a paratextual function happens on a lot of different levels. It can occur at the connotative and associative level, thinking less about the actual forms of letters but considering the visual texture of a text set in a particular typeface on a page. Which is cultural, historical, and part of the stock-in-trade, the intellectual palette of any competent designer. So the extent to which you go down that path is going to vary with the nature of the job. Its not a dressing up chest: Well, its a 16th century text, Ill use a 16th century

typeface. But you probably wouldnt set it in Helvetica either. Is the design of a page of text a deal-breaker for you? Sometimes, if its really bad. Ive got a little rogues gallery here of really bad examples. Theres a book called The Triumph of Kurt Schwitters, 7 and its the most diabolically badly-designed thing at every level. Is it interrupting? Yes, in the sense that it uses a typeface in which particular letters intrude. I mean, its using ITC Isbell, which is not a book face by any stretch of the imagination. It has a bunch of little quirks that get in the way, and which you notice every time theres a lower case a. Its everything you dont look for in a book face. At a legibility level its really poor. At a readability level its about the same. The line measure is too long, its totally unsympathetic to the act of reading. David Pearson 8 talks about this. That if youre setting a novel, really, Monotype Dante or Columbus, ten and a half over twelve and a half why would you go anywhere else? Exactly. I would say that Im not precious about it, although it might sound as though I am. But the adequate, functional, efcient trade paperback, Im perfectly happy with. As long as the typeface doesnt get in the way of the text, its job done. Then there are matters of nuance that make reading more pleasurable, more continuous. And Im not talking about particularly aesthetic ideas, just anything word spacing, line spacing, measure, justication that minimises interruption. So the size of the book, the text setting, the position of the text on the page its really just about providing safe passage for the reader. And its about serving and honouring the text. There are instances when this becomes a huge aesthetic project in its own right. Like Tristram Shandy? Well, the idea of the visually experimental book is a whole other thing. I just meant the idea of the connoisseur book, the ne book.

Barbara Crossley, The Triumph of Kurt Schwitters, Armitt Trust Ambleside 2005
7 8

David Pearson is a

British designer, perhaps best known in the UK for his cover designs for the Penguin Great Ideas series of books.

60

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

But I can be quite ambivalent about that, too, because I also dont want the aesthetic experience to get in the way of the text. Thats really interesting. That despite your passion for typography, your passion for language and writing supersedes it. Because typography and page design is about tness for purpose. In a lot of cases, the writing, the language is a completed thing. It exists in a totally nalised, resolved form before its been typeset. So the amount of margin for the design process to enhance it is minimal, and thats as it should be. On the other hand, you have the collaboration between writer and designer, where the writing and designing become much more integrated and much more simultaneous. But thats quite an unusual and rareed eld. Whats imperative is treating the text, and the reader, with all due respect. Its a system of good manners. Yes. Lets talk about your own type foundry. Which we should explain is imaginary, and indeed is called La Fonderie Imaginaire. Why Imaginaire? And does the fact that its imaginary make it a story? Its an idea that Ive been playing with for a while. In a sense its both expedient and fanciful. At a practical level, its a kind of repository for projects that would be unfeasibly time consuming to bring to actual realisation. The design of typefaces interests me very much, but not to the extent of being one of those guys for the whole of my working life. I have more sort of speculative ideas about what a set of letters might look like than I have the time to carry those through the huge amount of iceberg that exists under the waterline of any typeface: to actually create the full OpenType set with all its thousands of glyphs. So its that, but also the plan for the La Fonderie Imaginaire is that its a kind of brand under which I can distribute stuff that I make but which is kind of tangential to the rest of my practice. But also, youre right, its a ction. And the inuences, the things that it connects up with it occupies the counter-world of unrealised possibilities. Which is something Im increasingly interested in. So something like La Fonderie Imaginaire sends us little dispatches from that counter-world. So it connects up with people

and pieces of work that Ive been interested in for some time. Marcel Broodthaers and the Department of Eagles 9 would be one example of that, and of course Donald Evans 10 and his design of postage stamps for imaginary countries. Edward Gorey, 11 who I love and lecture about. With Gorey, as well as designing a lot of books and book jackets, he also designed covers for a lot of imaginary novels. Another big inuence, and someone who plays into this as well, is Saul Steinberg, 12 the whole premise of Passport, a book of graphic work thats about ctitious attribution and false identity. Are these lines of enquiry that can only work in an imaginary space? Well I think thats true of so much ction. But not of typography. Thats true. There was a good interview with Brian Eno, where he talks of art as being a false world in which we conduct experiments, the equivalent of which would be too dangerous to carry out in day-to-day life. There are also ideas of radical eclecticism. And I do just like the idea of spinning out a ctitious, elaborate backstory. But why does this interest you so much? Im not sure. When I rst discovered that idea in Steinbergs work, it was another of those kind of lightbulb moments. And it maybe also ties in with my uneasiness of the idea of art as direct personal expression. Because I dont really buy that. I think the self which is being expressed is almost unavoidably a ctitious one. This is interesting, this conversation, as Im now seeing links between different aspects of past and present practice which I havent been aware of before. Of juvenilia, of the stuff I was doing as a teenager, and that idea of forging a persona. But equally the idea that that is just what artists do. We all live lives based on selected ctions, and any reasonably mature creative practice acknowledges that fact.
Marcel Broodthaers (1924 1976) was a Belgian poet, filmmaker and artist. The Department of Eagles was a conceptual museum created in Brussels in 1968.
9

Donald Evans (1945 1977) was an American artist known for creating hand-painted postage stamps of imaginary countries.
10

Edward Gorey (1925 2000) was an American writer and artist noted for his often rather disturbing and unsettling illustrated books. He enjoyed using bizarre pseudonyms.
11

Saul Steinberg, The Passport, Harper and Brothers New York 1954
12

61

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

Catherine Rowe: Illustration Can be a Nuisance

When did stories rst appear in your life? I asked my mum about this recently, whether she read to me as a child. Because I dont remember at all. She said, Of course I did! What kind of mother would I be if I didnt? [laughs] But I really dont remember being read to. I remember reading, having lots and lots of books. What were those books, and when were you reading them? Well, we lived in our rst house until I was ve, and when I think of those early memories of reading, its there. And I do know that I read before I went to primary school. I have two older sisters. The eldest, shes ve years older than me and she was a prolic reader. As was my other sister, actually. I was probably a bit behind them, in terms of how early they were reading. So we had loads of books in the house, because of them. Mainly picture books. Do you remember any in particular?

Cambridge, UK 4 April 2013 Catherine Rowe is an illustrator. Working in scraperboard, she primarily selects animals and their twilight activities as her subject of choice.

I loved Mog the Cat 1 and I remember really loving the pictures. And when I think about it now, I probably wasnt really reading, as we might understand it as grown-ups. I was more just enjoying the pictures, which I suppose you would as a child. You know, I was actually scared of picture books, too. I had this one book, I dont remember what it was a fairy tale about a giant behind a big wall, and the children who werent allowed to go near it Oscar Wilde The Selsh Giant. 2 Thats it. And I had this book, and in it was this illustration of the giant with really long hair, and I was so terried of it I hid the book in the wardrobe. I was scared of loads of my books! The being scared thing is really interesting. When I was talking to Brenda Jobling, a writer for younger readers, she talked

62

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

about Alice in Wonderland, and how the illustrations that particularly gripped her were the scary ones. I remember the same thing in my childhood. One of my favourites was a Ladybird book called Underwater Exploration. 3 And on one page there was this terrifying image of a shark, and I would turn the pages knowing it was coming. But compelled to keep turning the pages. I think fear is a crucial part of a reading experience. There must be peril someone must want something, and it must be dangerous for them to go and get it. Yes, I think so. When you talk about the shark in your Ladybird book, it reminded me of a book I had called Twinkle Twinkle Chocolate Bar. 4 I absolutely loved it. But there was one short poem in it about an escalator, about a child getting swallowed up by it. And the illustration showed the escalator with a giant mouth at the end. I was absolutely terried, but I kept going back to it. But Id also try and be casual about it [laughs], like if I was with my sister or my mum, Id be desperately pretending not to be scared of it. One of the things that Im trying to get to the bottom of is the effect of the reading experience on an individual, and the role of illustration in that. Again, when I talked to Brenda, who is a writer but who had tremendous trouble with reading and writing as a child, she described books as a place that she went, rather than being a thing that she read. And that the illustrations were a very important part of that. What Im trying to ask is whether reading and narrative were or are important to you, being that you are now an illustrator, or whether they are just vehicles which enable you to make illustrations. Yes Well, I think that, with most of the work Im doing now, it doesnt have a written element at all theyre purely picture books. Like with The Hare 5 there are no words at all, and I liked this because readers could have lots of different interpretations of what the story might be about. So for me the books I read as a child were less about the written word, than making the story out of the illustrations. This seems to chime with what many people have said. That the illustrations can be another gateway into a story. With Brenda they were what she used to read the story when she wasnt being read to by her dad.

How old were you when you started reading more substantial written texts? Id say around seven. What were you reading? At that time, at school, we had the library, and you could take so many books out per week and they really encouraged you to do that. And I remember that I was in love with this book called The Farthest Away Mountain by Lynne Reid Banks. 6 And I took it away and I read it, and I absolutely loved the illustrations. I still love them now. And thats sort of the foundation of what I love and how I work now, just black ink. Its a funny story actually. When I put that book back in the library, all through my school years I could never nd it again. And I told my mum about this she worked at the school and she found it and took the original copy for me, brought it home for me, saying No-ones going to read it now no-ones taken it out for years. Ive still got it. So you were being quite discerning about the books you were selecting, and the illustrations were a big part of that? Yes. In contrast to The Farthest Away Mountain, when I think of the rst Harry Potter book, 7 the cover illustration didnt do anything for me, so I didnt pick it up. The illustration is of Harry standing by the Hogwarts Express, but he looks old! Like hes in his twenties. You know, it was one of my contemporaries at art college who did that cover. Thomas Taylor. Hed probably just about graduated when he got that job. [Catherine looks slightly embarrassed] Its okay, I agree with you! The thing is, I didnt read it, but I had to write a book review about it for a school project, so I made it up from what I saw on the cover. And judging from the illustration, I wrote that it was a book about a man that travelled by train, and because on the cover he looks like hes thinking about something, and because hes got a backpack, I wrote something about him going on trains and writing about his travels. And when I nally did read the books, and found out what they were actually about, the cover illustrations continued to really annoy me! I just couldnt warm to them.

Mog the Cat was the central character in a series of childrens books by Judith Kerr, first published in the UK between 1970 and 2002.
1

Catherine is referring to the edition illustrated by Joanna Isles, School Specialty Publishing 1979
2 3

Underwater Exploration:

A Ladybird Achievements Book, Wills and Hepworth 1967 John Foster, Twinkle Twinkle Chocolate Bar, OUP Oxford 1993
4

Catherine Rowe, The Hare www.blurb.co.uk/ b/3149521-the-hare


5

Lynne Reid Banks, The Farthest Away Mountain, Harper Collins 1998
6

J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, Bloomsbury 1997


7

63

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

You felt misled by them? By the depiction of Harry, and the content? Yes. In this sense were talking about book covers, though. Can we talk about illustrated books? I was talking to Will Hill recently, and he said hed written an essay about the things that writing does that illustration cant, and the things illustration does that writing cant. And that those two areas are at their most exciting when theyre playing off against each other. For example, its easy to say fty-thousand elephants but hard to illustrate them. Whereas if you were describing the positions of snooker balls on a table, an illustration would be much more effective than words. So Im wondering what the function of an illustration is to you, when it comes to books? Its not really about reecting the contents of the book but more Well, when I was looking through this long bookshelf at school, and making a choice of which book to read, I would just ick through them, looking for a cover that appealed to me. And as with the Lynne Reid Banks book, one would just draw me in. I couldnt have said why. Even now, as someone whos meant to be analysing imagery for that very purpose. That raises a couple of questions. Particularly about what the function of a book cover is. For what its worth, I think the primary function of a book cover is to make sure you to take the book off the shelf. The secondary function is to make sure you dont put it back on the shelf. And the books you selected are doing just that. So its not about describing the content at all, as you say, but providing a gateway. In hindsight I think I was subconsciously attracted to things that were really well-informed. On The Farthest Away Mountain, theres a little girl looking up, and theres a gargoyle there, looking down at her. And the gargoyle is very captivating. Hes not scary but theres emotion there. It draws you in. And if we think about the Harry Potter one again, its just empty. Theres no sense of what we might nd out about him if we read on. Have you looked at some of the international jackets? How Harry is portrayed in different countries?

No. Theyre quite interesting. In the US, theyre more epic, more blockbuster-y. The way that the illustration and typography is deployed, hes instantly drawn as more of a hero. On the UK jackets, something tends to be happening to Harry; whereas in the US, Harry is happening to something. We underplay him, they overplay him. Were getting a bit off-topic here. Thats okay. [laughs] Okay. So when one is, say, eleven or twelve, the terms illustration or graphic design dont really mean anything. You may be familiar with the terms, but what the practice actually involves is a mystery. Can you tell me when drawing, or making illustrations, began as a serious endeavour for you? I was always really interested in art throughout my education. And around the GCSE point I was doing lots of painting and perhaps heading down that route. But increasingly I really relied on the briefs they were giving us, and I found it harder to work with no indications. I much preferred having a set project to do. Once I was at secondary school I didnt really do much in my free time. Perhaps some collage, scrapbooks, things like that. I remember going from GCSE to A-Level with the same teacher, and Id been doing lots of these oil paintings. And I liked them and he liked them, but I never liked the idea of how self-indulgent all these self-portraits seemed to be. I didnt want people to think I enjoyed painting myself in that kind of Frieda Kahlo sense. I was just painting the subject I was most exposed to. So when I was talking to my teacher about what to do after sixth form he suggested illustration because of the way I was working, and how I preferred working to a brief. But I was also very attracted to graphic design for the same reasons, because I was quite interested in all the digital stuff. But at that time I couldnt connect a digital practice with illustration. I had always assumed illustration was more traditional. That can be a pretty pejorative word, traditional, because it comes with a whole set of assumptions about how far back tradition goes. Both cave painting and Victorian engraving are traditional, but aesthetically they have very little in common.

64

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

Yes. I suppose, for me, traditional means timeless, it seems to disregard trend or material developments. And by that point my sister had been to Falmouth to do illustration, so Id seen a lot of her work, and had an idea of what illustration involved as a practice. But I hated my Foundation. I struggled with 3D and sculpture and fashion and some of the other things you do there. I was just drawing a lot. So by the time we were asked to select a pathway I just knew that I wanted to do illustration. Why? Because of everything theyd been introducing to us, illustration was the one thing where I liked being in the zone they wanted us to be in if that makes sense. With the ne art pathway there was an idea at the time of a very expressive type of painting that I didnt enjoy. But with illustration there was all the drawing, of course, and the working to a brief. But I still only got a pass, I still wasnt taking it fully seriously. Being at Portsmouth University I suppose that, because I hadnt really found a voice for myself with my illustration yet everyone around me was obsessed with nding their style, but I was just sort of going along comfortably, and didnt feel I was really an illustrator because of that. So really I was only ever taking the next step with myself, there was no grand plan. I was just doing what came next. Thats quite interesting, because when we read or see interviews with artists, and they say, Yes, I saw this Francis Bacon painting and it changed me forever, or whatever, it gives that moment in their life a larger signicance than it probably deserves. We join the dots were given, but hardly ever in the right order. The reality is much more nuanced for almost everyone. Just the procedure of taking the next, largely unknown, step, as you say. Just quite honest, practical decisions. Yes. I mean, it wasnt always quite as simple as that either. I did a combined English Language and Literature A-Level. I loved it, and I did okay with it, and so I do love reading and writing. And for a time I did consider going down that route. But I liked drawing and wanted to do something with it, but I was also worried. Lots of people at that time were questioning drawing as a career option. Why would you go for a career in art?

I was talking to a friend of mine that I hadnt seen for ages. 8 Hes called Paul, and hes an artist, quite a successful artist now. And I just asked him, Why? You know, why do we still make art? And he said, I just still have this urge to see things. Which I thought was a lovely answer. But if youre putting forward a proposal for a successful life-plan, you couldnt propose a worse idea than being an artist and writer. Its an insane proposition! But regardless, for many artists, there remains that compulsion to make things, as Paul said. Is that the case with you? Thats really interesting. Its not always been that way for me. Sometimes Ive been surrounded by work with a deadline to meet and thought, I really dont want to do this. But Im quite conscientious and I always wanted to do well, whatever I did. And sometimes, with drawing and considering that as a career, I would panic, thinking, Is this really a good idea? And do I even really want to do it? There was nothing else I wanted to do, but I also wanted to make it, as it were. God, that sounds really self-indulgent. I dont think so. In the end it just comes down to what youre prepared to sacrice, because you always have to sacrice something. Going back to stories, what kind of stories are you reading now? Which books do you pick from the shelves now that youre an adult? It really varies. Strangely, being at university Im reading the least Ive ever read. Theres things you have to read, of course. But in terms of reading for pleasure this is really embarrassing, but theres these kind of wartime ctions by Belinda Alexandra. 9 And theyve got these awful, really cheesy covers. You know, just a Getty image of a boy and a girl sitting on a branch, that kind of thing, and titles like White Gardenia. And theyre always about a young girl caught up in some kind of wartime drama. Im totally addicted to them. But I also love David Sedaris. I must have read Naked four or ve times. The Piano Teacher is a favourite. 10 To Kill a Mockingbird is probably my favourite ever book. 11 So it would seem, from that, that illustration doesnt play much of a role in your reading choices any more, except for cover designs. And even then thats not a crucial

Paul Johnson www.saatchigallery.co.uk/artists/ paul_johnson.htm


8

Belinda Alexandra at HarperCollins: http://www.harper collins.com.au/ authors/50018805/Belinda_Alexandra/index.aspx


9

Janice Y. K. Lee, The Piano Teacher, Harper 2009


10

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, first published by J. B. Lippincott & Co. 1960
11

65

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

component for your choices. The reason I ask that is, having talked about illustration for younger readers, I wanted to ask you about your thoughts on why we dont see illustrations in adult ction anymore, and why you think that may be. Because its not that long ago say, a hundred years or so that we were seeing a lot of illustration in adult ction, and that there was a long tradition of this behind that. Can I show you something? Yes. This book [Gentleman of the Road by Michael Chabon] 12 is a bit of a throwback to those 19th century novels like The Three Musketeers. Its the only modern popular novel Ive seen that does this with these evocative pen and ink illustrations every twenty pages or so, and a short caption underneath, normally a key piece of dialogue. Would it be a better world for adult ction if books did have illustrations? Looking at this, its lovely. But generally, if I was reading something for adults and it had illustrations in it, I dont think Id like it. Why not? I suppose when youre younger, youre so impressionable, and the illustrations make the story. The images stick with you forever in a way that the words dont. But when youre older, I think the illustrations may almost be a nuisance, because your mind has developed in such a way that you can visualise the written word in much more detail. Also, illustrations can knock away everything youve been imagining up to that point. For example, with those books I mentioned, the Belinda Alexandra ones, illustrations would denitely really frustrate me, because it would probably counter whats in my mind, what the text has worked to put there. Its a phenomenon thats central to my research. If you take the work of Gustave Dor his illustrations are for adult texts, like Dantes Inferno, Don Quixote, the works of Byron and Coleridge. 13 And when I see those books, even as a pretty well-read grown-up, I still nd myself looking forward to the illustrated pages. But you nd them a nuisance. Universally a nuisance? Or is there ever room for them with adults, as another gateway into the story?

Its a personal thing for me, being an illustrator. Because a bad, or ill-judged, illustration in a book is so destructive to the experience. And with adults the risks of that happening are perhaps even greater. Perhaps because adult tastes come into account. I think it could work. It would depend totally on the text, and the type and quality of the drawing. But this is peculiar to a western culture. Its certainly not the case in other cultures, where pictures remain a vital part of the storytelling experience, and tradition, for everyone. And Im following a hunch that there is a strong place for that tradition within modern novels, and thats its just out of fashion at the moment for a number of reasons. And thats why Gentleman of the Road is so interesting. And if you look at the illustrations, the illustrator has been really careful to safeguard us against the risks you mentioned. You never see a clear portrait of the protagonists, they are suggested as part of a larger, more emotive landscape. Nothing in them corrupts the thing weve imagined during the reading. I agree, but I still think theyre mostly a distraction. I think if I was being read to, then the idea of images really appeals to me. But with adult ction, reading it for myself then no. But on the other hand, I dont really want to be a childrens book illustrator. I want to illustrate stories but not necessarily just for children. And it really makes me wonder what other places there are for narrative illustration apart from the childrens book. So what youre saying is interesting but quite conicting for me at the same time. And realistically, I cant imagine being commissioned to illustrate a novel for adults, if Im honest. Have you seen the work of Matthew Hawkins? He discovered he had a connection to a famous pirate, and the Oak Island treasure. 14 So he wrote about his discovery of this connection, and his fantasies, and the history of the treasure, and illustrated the text really effectively. It was fantastic and a kind of illustrated text for adults. He seems to have resolved, to a point, that conict youre talking about. Well, another thing Im thinking about is the role illustration can play in education, its

Michael Chabon, Gentlemen of the Road, Sceptre 2008


12

Gustave Dor (1832 1883) was a French artist working primarily with wood engraving and steel engraving.
13 14

Matthew Hawkins,

The Story of Oak Island. I first discovered this in Its Nice That Issue 2, October 2009. www. matthewhawkins.co.uk

66

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

informative role. Encyclopedias, for example. Or historical text books. Im really thinking about this because, with the way I work, I cant imagine children enjoying it terribly much. The images are just very intense. I think the culture could shift again, for illustrated adult ction. Because the kind of stuff Im writing at the moment, which has its roots in the myths and classics of Ancient Greece your illustration, I think, could really lend itself to that type of material. I do have so many conicts, because Im not sure where the place for my work is right now, where its going to slot in. But Im really interested in the idea of reading aloud to adults, with illustrations. Id really like to see where that goes, where it might take you. When you illustrate your own narratives, whats your relationship with your readers? How are you expecting them to respond, to react? Im thinking specically of your book The Hare Im doing things a bit upside down. Rather than taking a text and illustrating it, Im making a book thats purely illustrated and the narrative comes out of that for the reader. I feel that anything too literal doesnt give you anything as a reader, and there should be something given. With The Hare, I knew the story I wanted to tell, and originally there were words accompanying the drawings. But when I took the words away there were so many more ways to interpret the narrative from the drawings. And I loved that, but I was also a bit worried about it. And when I showed it to people there were so many different reactions and interpretations. But I think thats what I want to give people, and how I want to move forward. I want people to stay on the page for a long time, rather than the impulse being to turn the page, which is the more usual thing. I think thats both the difference and the similarity between what were both trying to do. We both want people to engage on a more profound level with whats on the page. Youre doing it by removing the text from the pictures, and Im doing it by adding pictures to the text. Were both trying to progress something. I have this thing at the moment, an idea that all great art should take at least as long to fully appreciate as it did to make.

Yes, exactly. Im calling the theory anti-chatter. [laughs] Its about ideas of complexity. Youre using a very simple device to do that. Youre narrative becomes more complex because of the very lack of explicit direction for the reader. For you its a complexity achieved by removing things. And you work in scraperboard, of course, which is very much about removing things to reveal a picture. Can we talk about that? Yes. I had done a lot of etching previously, but had found the process very frustrating, and a bit open to chance. When I tried scraperboard I found that its a much more immediate process, more direct, and much more about drawing, I suppose. And I love the effects it can offer. I have to say, one of those effects is the reason why I really liked your work when I saw it. Because you begin with a black page, youre revealing the light that hits a body. As a result you get this feeling of twilight hours, of magic, a sort of ethereal space. The witching hour, a place between places, without any explicit sense of time or space. Thats so nice of you to say that, to notice that the twilight thing, the magic. Its exactly what I wanted to happen. Also, I wanted all my characters to be anatomically correct, but I wanted their environment, their world, to look make-believe. Theres no light pollution in my work, no evidence of human activity. If I was to draw that space on a white page, it would be more explicit. But with scraperboard, with the black page, theres a sense that youre observing these creatures in a magical space. Theres also something magical about the material, in that you are taking away the black, and revealing a world underneath. Perhaps something that was there all along. Exactly. And theres something very appealing about that. Can we talk a bit about the story Im hoping we can collaborate on? What did you think of the extract I sent you?

67

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

I found the whole proposal really interesting. And I think the questions youre asking of your audience are really valid. And the extract itself it was a different experience for me, because I dont normally read a lot of things with so much dialogue, because I nd a lot of dialogue quite a hard read. But with yours it was very uid, and I read it really easily. It was very good. It was so atmospheric for having no description, just complete dialogue. Thank you for saying that. Thats what I was hoping for, to use dialogue to move the story forward. Ive actually been thinking of removing the dialogue as it occurs between two people he said, she said, and thereby requiring speech marks and looking at the way Chaucer did it in The Canterbury Tales, with the other voices having their place in the prologue to each tale, so that the tale itself is more or less just one voice one person using their voice to tell a story. I think that would work well for me. I think that if theres too much quoted dialogue, the page itself can get quite messy. The eye moves around the lines too much, yes. Ive done this before, actually, with a thing called Small Adventures in Accessible Places. It was a book of short pieces in which the noun took precedence over the adjective, so that the description didnt distract from the event being described. And I also took out all the quotation marks, just using capital letters mid-sentence to indicate when a person was speaking. Its an unusual reading experience but quite effective in its way. Almost everything for me has an aesthetic component. And that would include the text for me, as well.

68

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

Steve Gorman: Anything Done Well

I was chatting to [mutual friend] Drew a while ago. And I was asking him, how come everyone in the Black Crowes is so wellread? He said that a book gets on the bus and everyone reads it. Is that still true? Sure. Right now four of us have read a book called Going Clear 1, which is all about Scientology. Chris read it, then Rich went and got it I have a Kindle now, Ive given up the ghost. I dont have room for fty books in my suitcase anymore. So I got it, and then Jackie got it. Its just like that, like a record that gets around. In our band it was always a subconscious thing. That if we all read the same thing over the course of a few months, even if people didnt like it, it was just something that its as good a connection with people as loving the same record. It gives you all something to think about and something to talk about. So youre getting away from the band but staying in the band at the same time. Weve always been inspired similarly. That could be a restaurant or a walk in a park. We never talked about it in the old days, but we have since. Anything that someones into, everyone else at least investigates. Plus, life on the road, theres so much sitting around. Just waiting for one thing or another. When we started hitting our stride, maybe twenty years ago, the shows were so intense that the rest of the day was kind of boring. So for me, a book has always been better than music to get my head somewhere else. Music makes me think like a musician, but books take me wherever they want to go. This thing about the shared experience. Its still important isnt it? It is. And even if youre disagreeing, the fact that youre all on the same topic, just to have some time every day when theres no role to play, and what youre talking about has nothing to do with your work, its just much more human, more normal. When youre ve or six guys sitting down and talking about a book, theres no sense of whos supposed to lead and whos supposed to follow. Its

Via Skype 24 June 2013 Steve Gorman is the drummer for rock group the Black Crowes. Spending much of his life on tour, he is a voracious and sophisticated reader of ction and non-ction.

69

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

more like normal human interaction. And we dont get much of that on tour, because if you run into fans, thats as abnormal as it gets. You know what I mean? You hardly ever have an equal conversation, as much as you look for it. But again, books are a great equaliser. I have friends in Nashville, personal friends who have nothing to do with the music world, and one of things were always doing is recommending books to each other. In fact, I dont have too many friends that I dont discuss books with. Of course I have a lot of acquaintances and buddies, but all the people Im closest to, we will always talk about what were reading. Not by design in fact I havent really thought about it until just now. So what do you like to read? Will you give anything a go? Well, its funny, we were talking about the band. Chris reads all kinds of I dont know if its science ction but its really out-there, bizarre stuff that I dont always have a lot of time for. I like a lot of historical non-ction. Michael Chabon is my ction writer of choice. So one of my favourite books of the last ten years is The Yiddish Policemens Union 2, which is a ctional historical book. I dont know if you know it? Its on my radar. Ive read a couple of other books by Chabon. When you start a book with the premise of, what if Israel had been destroyed in 1948 and all the Jews moved to Alaska thats a good place to start a story in my mind!
Lawrence Wright, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, Knopf 2013
1

How about your kids? Did you read to them? We read to them every night without fail for years and years and years, until they wanted to read for themselves. Now, both my kids, before they go to sleep at night, read for about thirty minutes. They have to thats not a choice [laughs]. My eldest, hes thirteen now, so hes starting to fall asleep in front of the ballgame, hes getting into that idea. Its summer now and theyre both out of school, but they have a reading list every summer, and we encourage them to read other stuff too. You describe yourself as having been an avid reader since you were young. But when did books begin to have a major impact on you? At school, when I started getting interesting books assigned to me. Red Badge of Courage 3 and The Catcher in the Rye 4. Things that blew my head off, that really got me going. But it wasnt that I was a voracious reader at that time. I only read things that I fell in love with. I had to get into it. If I got into it I was horribly into it. You know how everyone goes through a Catcher in the Rye phase? I adopted that as a measure for everything I read. It was either that great, or it wasnt. It wasnt until college that I began to read more, to relax, to realise that not every book is going to change your life. It wouldnt make for much of a life if everything impacted you that hard. But even now, if I read something I love, I want to get all of that writers books. I know what you mean. Sometimes a writer will speak to you in a certain way at just the right time, and youll go along with it all the way. Particularly when youre younger. Well, with Michael Chabon, the thing about him thats great is that he seems to consciously write books that dont seem as if theyre written by the same person at all. Thats okay for me. I love them all. Thats where the regard for the career artist comes out, which is something Ive become very interested in. You want to see what theyre going to do next. For sure. I guess for some people, like with their music, they want their favourite bands to make a record thats just like the last one.

Its a great elevator pitch. Yeah. And with something like that I can dig right in and pretend thats how the world shook out. It reads like an old-school detective novel, its fantastic. Can we go back in time a bit? When you were a boy, were you read to by your parents? Oh, God no. I was the youngest of eight. My parents never read to me, but I was always an avid reader. If they did read to me, and Id have to check, it was only to a point where the very second I could read for myself it stopped, Im sure of that. I would imagine my siblings probably read to me. My parents were tired by the time I showed up.

Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policemens Union, HarperCollins 2007


2

Stephen Crane, Red Badge of Courage, D. Appleton & Company 1895


3

JD Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, Little, Brown and Company 1951
4

70

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

Some people feel the same way about their authors. But I love it when authors can go between such wildly different moods and settings and types of characters and types of interactions. Like Philip Roth. Some people see the thread that runs through all his writing, but if you pick up Zuckerman Unbound 5 and something hes written in the last ten years, theres a whole lot of life experience between them. Hes not the same guy. And hes not going to write in the same way. And thats how it should be. John Irving was a guy I was reading a lot of in the late eighties, but I got to a point with him when I wasnt interested in any of his characters anymore. Two or three of them I didnt even nish. It was like Id seen all these tricks before. Do you nd yourself falling in love with characters as much as authors? Oh, yes. I get really attached. I hate letting go of characters. The main character in The Yiddish Policemens Union is denitely one of those guys, Meyer Landsman. That was my check-in name on the road for a while. Its funny, last night I was just bored to tears, and I couldnt sleep, and I dont even know what tipped it off, but I started thinking about books Id read in anticipation of this conversation, and though about Among the Thugs. 6 The Bill Buford book. Its about an American getting involved with a bunch of British football hooligans in the late eighties. Its one of the most intense books Ive ever read. I read it when it came out, before I rst started travelling to England. And it made me never want to go there. Terrifying. Its horrible, and so foreign to an American mindset. But I started reading it last night again, and I was right back in there. I remembered all these characters so clearly. Things like that make an impact, Im never far away from them. I dont realise it, but theyre always there. I read two books last year by Lynne Olsen. Troublesome Young Men 7 and Citizens of London 8. Citizens of London is about three Americans in the Second World War. Troublesome Young Men is about Churchill and all those who were anti-appeasement in the thirties. They are so well written. And to me, reading Citizens of London last summer, my kids were in the pool and I was in The Blitz. Checking the skies overhead, you know, for Stukas! The

same happened today. I went for a coffee here in Amsterdam, but in my head Im on a train platform in Manchester watching some West Ham supporters getting beaten with sticks. Lets talk about these characters and their voices, and how they appear on the printed page. I feel that you can have as much reported action as you like, but its the living voice that allows you to fall in love with a character. Im writing a novel at the moment in which there are human characters and supernatural characters, and Im investigating whether they should have their own printed voices, as it were. Like with Dracula 9, for example, in which some editions give each character a different typeface. How do you feel about that sort of thing? Anything thats done well, you can get away with. Thats really it. Like screenwriters always say, woe betide the man who uses voiceovers in a movie. But if you use them correctly, its great. These things are just available tools, and it depends on how skilled the user of those tools is. Like with the US version of House of Cards 10 with Kevin Spacey. He does a lot of pieces to camera and its great. The fourth wall thing. And its done brilliantly. But some people hate it. But after a while you stop noticing it, and in fact you look forward to it. Its the same with books. Im sure Ive read other examples of the kind of thing youre talking about, and if its turned me off its just because it wasnt done well enough. Or they were leaning on it too much. Ive just read a book called Gone Girl 11 by Gillian Flynn. A woman goes missing and the husband is suspected. And each chapter is written from the point of view of each of them. And every time a new chapter started, I was thinking, I dont want to go there, I want to stay where I am. And then you feel the same about that chapter. So what Im saying is, something that can start out frustrating ends up being the reason you like it. If its done well. I was talking to someone else about my thoughts on the treatment of dialogue on a page. And he said he would be suspicious of any book that existed just to prove a stylistic point. That the bridge is only as interesting as the trafc that crosses it.
Philip Roth, Zuckerman Unbound, Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1981
5

Bill Buford, Among the Thugs, Secker & Warburg 1990


6

Lynne Olson, Troublesome Young Men, Bond Street Books 2007


7

Lynne Olson, Citizens Of London, Presidio Press 2010


8

Bram Stoker, Dracula, Four Corners Books 2007


9 10

House of Cards, based

on the novel by Michael Dobbs. Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl, W&N 2012
11

71

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

Exactly. So hows yours going? 20,000 words in, if youre game for reading it? Of course. Thanks! Im always cautious about asking people to do this. I understand. Ive got two friends from Atlanta, and theyve both written novels in the last few years and sent them to me. And they were both okay. But its hard not to compare them to great writing. Good stories, but I couldnt say they were well-executed. Some interesting ideas though. So I can rely on you for honest criticism. Oh, sure. I dont think that my opinion carries enough weight that anyone should get too worked up about it though. But the reason I was so keen to interview you is that youre so well-read. So Im interested in what you have to say as a pretty sophisticated reader. Your standards are going to be pretty high. Can we jump back to Michael Chabon again, and talk about Gentlemen of the Road 12? [Gasps] Such a great book. How did you feel about the illustrations in the book? I loved them. Its like another of his books, Kavalier and Clay 13. I never grew up with comics. Im not very visually motivated, if you will. My wife has worked in the visual arts her whole life. Everything is visual to her. Im not that way. But as far as Gentlemen of the Road goes, I thought it was a perfect accompaniment to the book. And that book, no-one gets more out of a sentence than Chabon. Its 130 pages long and it took me a month. I had to go slowly, otherwise you miss so much. It has a richness to it, a kind of density, but its not overwhelming. Or intimidating. You just feel you want to take your time with it. Its another of those books I started over once it ended. And going even slower the second time. I always compare his writing to Little Feat records.

Totally. You know. You can listen to their records once and hum the melody, but the more you listen to it the more you realise how much is going on underneath it. Like Easy To Slip. Ill never get to the bottom of that. You cant play it. Thats why weve never played Little Feat songs. We always did Willin, but thats it. Its the same with Chabon. Theres so much going on under what you think youre reading about. Page to page, sentence to sentence. Its deep. I was talking to an illustrator recently about illustration in adult ction. And she said she would nd it a problem for two reasons. Firstly, as an adult you are much more able to understand the nuances of language and storytelling, and therefore the illustration is unnecessary. And secondly that, as an illustrator, you never illustrate what has already been said with the text. But with Gentlemen of the Road Chabon goes completely against both of those things. Right. So would you say the illustrations are redundant in that book? I love them, but Im questioning whether we really need them. Did you spend any time with the illustrations? Not so much. Not enough so that any of them are leaping into my mind now. It doesnt sound like you would have missed them if they werent there. I wouldnt have. Its funny, Ive never really thought about it in these terms. I remember seeing them and thinking, Oh, cool. But I didnt get hung up on them or spend any time thinking about them much after that. Its an idea Ive abandoned after much of this kind of feedback. I originally wanted to make a kind of 19th century novel, Dumas and Dickens, with exactly those kinds of engraved illustrations. But I dont think theyre necessary anymore. And talking of another popular 19th century device, I was also looking at serialisation. With things like the Kindle, thats something that could happen. How would you feel about some-

Michael Chabon, Gentlemen of the Road, Del Rey Books 2007


12

Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Random House 2000
13

72

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

thing like that? Would you feel manipulated by the drip-feeding of a story? Id be okay with it. It would be just like a series on TV. It all comes back to this: Ill be manipulated all day long if its done well. If I opened up my Kindle every month and there was another hundred pages of a book I was really enjoying, Id be the happiest guy in the world. Thats no different to buying a weekly magazine, although my lifestyle doesnt allow for that kind of thing anymore. So it would probably only work with the Kindle. One nal thing. Theres a great quote from a book by Umberto Eco, in which a character says that cheap novels will always tell greater truths that Great Art. That people are more like Milady than Little Nell, and more like Fu Manchu than Nathan the Wise. Does that ring true to you? Im sure that novels are more applicable to more people than art. There are certain themes that run through stories since classical times, and run through to life today. I guess what Im trying to say is, yes. I get more from novels than the opera. I dont really go to the opera a lot. When I do Im blown away. But its not something I feel I need to do again and again. But books are. You want to go to these place all the time. All the time. Thats pretty amazing though, isnt it? These 70,000 words or so about something that didnt happen, having such constant power and appeal. They didnt happen in that place with those names at that time, but all writing is based on experiences, whether theyre lived or heard about. Its the same words for everyone, the same alphabet, the same constant themes. Its just like music. All the notes and chords have been played, but theyre constantly rearranged for a purpose. Usually to say the same ve or so things! Theres that idea of the seven basic plots, in which all stories fall into one of seven plot types. And that even those seven come down to the same thing: someone must want something, and it must be difcult for them to get it.

[Laughs]. Yeah, pretty much! As an aside to that, I was reading an interview with [E-Street Band guitarist] Steven Van Zandt in the New Yorker. It was fantastic. And one great thing he said in that article was this: Rock and roll has always been one thing: the sound of boys screaming Daddy! [Laughs]. You know, some of that crops up in my book. Youll read about it later. Im not on board with Freudian psychology much, being more of a Carl Jung man. But that stuff comes out whether you want it to or not. Im with you on the Jung thing. Theres a guy whose name Ive forgotten, a Jungian philosopher, who wrote a book called The Middle Passage 14. It was all about what happens to you at thirty-ve when you realise youve wasted your life. Hollis, that was his name. Don Was gave me the book, actually, when we were making Lions. It changed my life. It put everything I was thinking in all the right words in all the right order. In fact it led to me quitting the band for a while [laughs]. A bit rash in hindsight.

James Hollis, The Middle Passage: From Misery to


14

Meaning in Mid-Life (Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts), Inner City Books 1993

73

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

Adele Geras: To Read and Enjoy

Someone said to me a while ago, Why are you doing an MA in order to write a novel? Well, its discipline, isnt it? Its homework. Yes. Because otherwise you dont write novels. Or I dont. [Laughs] Exactly. I dont know how anyone writes a novel when theyve got a job. You dont get round to it. You keep thinking, Thats a good idea. And it stays there. As an idea. Yes. I think its a very good way of doing it. I often say to myself, if only I could have my old English teacher living at home with me, just to stand over me and say, Right then, get your pencil out. You may start now. The question I wanted to ask you rst because Im primarily concerned with dialogue, and how its presented on the printed page is were you read to as a child?

Cambridge, UK 27 June 2013 Adele Geras is a writer of ction for both teenagers and adults. Her many books include Troy, Ithaka, Happy Ever After, Facing the Light, Made in Heaven and A Hidden Life.

I was read to a lot. Not from childrens books, because Im so old that there werent that many childrens books at that time. So I was read poems, fairy tales, novels and so on, until I was Im not quite sure at what age I was reading for myself, because I dont remember actually learning to read. But it must have been very early. I remember that by the age of six I had read a book called Our Island Story 1, which is a history book. And Andrew Langs Tales of Troy 2. Which, looking at them now, you would never give them to a six year-old. So I would have been quite a precocious and advanced reader. But yes, I was read to, and even more important, sung to a lot. Thats interesting. Yes. My mother sang to me. So I knew lots of songs as well. And thats a great way to tell a story. My father was reading and my mother was singing, mostly. A division of labour!

74

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

When your father was reading to you, did he do the voices? And how important was that to you? Oh, yes. Were all fantastically actor-y in our family. So he did all the voices. You have to do the voices if you can. If you cant, theres nothing wrong with not doing them. But generally speaking, parents who read to their children actually quite like showing off and doing all the different voices. Its an opportunity for playing. The second part of that is, when youre young, there comes this transition between being read to and reading for yourself. But when youre reading for yourself, are the voices still there? I do nd that the voices are there. If the book is succeeding, then everybody sounds different and I can differentiate them in my head, so I dont need all that he-said-she-said stuff. Because I know whos talking. So yes, I do have a voice in my head for each character. Ive never really thought about it before. Its a very interesting question. Do you remember ever nding that idea a challenge? Or was it automatic? Completely automatic. Its a sort of switch that goes on. When I was young I used to read a lot of Enid Blyton, a lot of the Malory Towers 3 books. And all the girls of the school had differentiated voices. One could always tell one from the other. This leads me on to the conventions of printed dialogue. For example, when we look at dialogue on a page, we have an indent, quotation marks, then a return so that we know another person is now speaking. My investigations are into whether it was ever thus. And it hasnt been. I was going to say. Historically it must be quite different. I get very irritated sometimes not that Im not experienced with it, because Im generally good at decoding stuff but there are an awful lot of writers that do stuff like not using speech marks at all. Like James Freys A Million Little Pieces 4. He uses neither indents nor speech marks. Well, you pays your money and you takes your choice. I think youd have to be quite a sophisticated reader to take that on. Actual-

ly, whatever convention the writer adopts, if youre a good reader, whether you immediately take to such things or not, youll soon pick it up. But if youre in any sense tentative, then the absence of any kind of support from the author can make you feel like youre being left to sink or swim. Thats why we have the conventions of dialogue theyre guidelines for the reader. I dont know if you know Will Hill. He teaches typography at the School of Art. He said to me that one of the primary functions of the typesetter of books, and the author, is to provide safe passage for the reader. Yes, exactly. And that any typographic device that might interrupt that safe passage, you have to meet with care. Yes. I think so. And you also have to ask yourself what youre doing with the book. Are you performing fancy tricks with dialogue and typography, or are you telling a bloody good story so that people can read it and enjoy it? I dont think you need the tricks, this is the thing. I think you can do everything you want to do with dialogue within the normal structures. Anything else you want to do is just up to you. Someone like Cormac McCarthy, who uses dashes instead of quotation marks. Well, okay. If he wants to do that then Im not going to worry about it as a reader. I get much more irritated by the injudicious use of fonts. That drives me bananas. Particularly with teenage books. I should say that rstly, theres recently been a complete domination of the rst-person present tense. I nd that almost impossible to read in bulk. I look over my shoulder. Hes there again. I begin to run. Its so hard. What theyre trying to do is be more like TV. Theyre trying to be lmic. Which is a big mistake. Because books are not lms. One or the other is okay the rst person or the present tense but both together gets a bit much. But as well as that, they are also using a lot of ghastly sans-serif fonts, because there is this idea that such things are modern. Which is historically and practically incorrect. But something familiar for the screenbased reader?

H E Marshall, Our Island Story: A Childs History of England, Civitas/Galore Park 1905
1 2 Andrew Lang, Tales of Troy and Greece,1907

3 Malory Towers is a series of six novels published from 1946-1951 by British childrens author Enid Blyton, featuring the fictional Cornish seaside boarding school

of the same name. James Frey, A Million Little Pieces, Random House 2003
4

75

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

On points of textual style: You have to ask yourself what youre doing with the book. Are you performing fancy tricks with dialogue and typography, or are you telling a bloody good story so that people can read it and enjoy it? I dont think you need the tricks, this is the thing. I think you can do everything you want to do within the normal structures. Anything else you want to do is just up to you.

76

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

I suppose so. But I nd it very irritating. So Im much more held up by that, by the selection of a font. Thats something I do have to get over before I can read on. Im also very keen on the use of white space on a page of print, good margins and line-spacing. Anything, in short, that makes it easier, or more pleasurable, to read the actual words is a good thing. If all you see is a dense thicket of prose when you pick up a book, you think to yourself, Im not sure if I feel like this actually however brilliant the book might be. I nd myself if total agreement with everything youre saying and yet, the point Ive come to with my MA, and with my own novel something that you know and Ive had to nd out is that all these printing conventions are there for a really good reason. Yes. And I now want to not subvert them, or challenge them particularly, but just to wonder if there are any echoes from the past which might be welcome today. For example, in certain bibles, dialogue is set in italics as a differentiator. Which is not a major thing. I was going to say, there can be very good reasons for doing things precisely like that. As an author, would you specify that to the typesetter? I would, if I needed it. In a book of mine called Facing The Light 5, which is set in the present day, there is a prologue, two pages set in the past, of an elderly womans childhood. And when I thought of it, I thought it should be in italics to mark it out. My editor said that people hate wodges of italics, especially at the beginning of a book. So in the end we put a blank page between the prologue and the body of the book, and dated each section. And I know what she means. I read a lot of thrillers, and theres this fashion for the murderer or serial killer, as its never anything as boring as your common or garden murderer these days to have his own internal dialogue, set in italics. Its quite common for thoughts to be set in italics though, isnt it? Its okay. But it is yet another thing and not strictly necessary. Another thing some

people do is to have different typefaces for each character. Like that edition of Dracula 6, where every letter from each character is set in a different face. And quite a few other historical novels. That can be quite useful. Do you like that? I nd it profoundly annoying and pointless. It certainly starts that way. But then I came to think of these typefaces as clothes, which helped quite nicely. But again, its still entirely unnecessary. None of this stuff is the end of the world. I realise that we are talking about the ner points of things. And were both in agreement that the story is everything, and that any of these devices must be used only if theyre felt to be essential. Which is why Im approaching my treatment with a light touch gentle retrievals of historical devices that might be appropriate to the story Im telling. So what is your story about? It takes place in the time immediately after someones death, in that space between death and the afterlife. Oh, thats good. So lots of things are soft-edged and difcult to focus on. And I wanted to be clear about the natures of the three characters in this world: the ferryman, as it were, who is immortal; his shape-shifting assistant, who might be an angel; and Samuel, the recently deceased human. And these are three voices that are not just different in character, but in nature and status. Yes. So all Ive done is for the ferryman to speak in italics, as he inhabits a world of thought more than physicality; and his assistant speaks without quotation marks, as if she is an eternal voice, rather than a terrestrial voice. The only person that uses speech marks is the human. Thats quite a good idea. That works for me. Because there is a reason behind the device.

Adele Geras, Facing the

Light, Orion 2004 Bram Stoker, Dracula, Four Corners Books 2007
6

77

Section 6: Interviews with writers and readers

Ill tell you who completely transformed my ideas on how to write stuff, how to set it out, is Stephen King. He will have a page of dialogue, and then open bracket to express a characters thoughts. Like a child in front of a teacher. There will be the spoken dialogue, and then in brackets, what the child is really thinking. It works quite brilliantly. Im acquainted with his editor. What a job! Exactly. And this is the interesting thing Im told he prefers a very hard edit. Which amazed me. I thought that with his status thats not something he would welcome. I dont think its a question of status at all. I think its a question of temperament. If you have had good relationships with your teachers in the past, and held them in any regard in relation to the improvement of your work, then youre much more receptive to changing it. Its a kind of arrogance if you think you know better on everything. Someone else might always know better. If youre a good writer, then you will always know whether a piece of editing is sensible or not. If you feel very strongly that the editor is wrong, then you must respond to that. But much of the time, if you have a good editor, theyll tell you the thing and your rst reaction will be [thumps table] Why didnt I think of that? And you rush back to do it. Quite often other people have brilliant ideas, you know. You just incorporate them like a happy magpie. Do you have an example of that? When I was writing Troy 7, I had my teenagers in the middle of the Trojan war. And every so often I was going to have a god, coming to the front of the stage as it were, and having a monologue, straight to the reader. And my editor read the book and said, I love the book but Im a bit worried about those gods. I think it would be better if And I thought, Shit. Here we go. And he said, I think it would work better if the gods were in among the human characters, coming and going, with some of the children able to see some of them some of the time, depending on the moment. And I tried it and it worked brilliantly. And all the reviews commented on how well this worked. Sometimes youre so far inside the book that you cant see these things on your own. You need someone else to see them for you.

Do you think there are any exceptions to this? There are writers whose commas and capitals you touch at your peril. They will not tolerate any editing. You can usually spot their books theyre the ones in need of the most editing.

Adele Geras, Troy, Scholastic 2001


7

78

Section 7 Reections and key learning from interviews

About this section These reections are not precisely the result of specic statements made by interviewees, but thoughts and ideas that have emerged as a result of them. As such they are not denitive, but key thoughts that allowed for intellectual and actual progression.

i That without a culturally robust oral tradition there comes a time in childhood when there is a transfer of power between the reader-aloud and the listener, who becomes a reader-within as soon as they are able. Once this transfer is complete the reader-within is dominant. ii That during this time, the power of the reader-aloud is subtly transferred to the reader-within using a number of carefully managed printed devices. iii These printed devices include a less rigid deployment of seriality, previously oral but now replaced with chaptering. Chapters allow the reader-within to exercise their emerging power: they may accept or decline the suggested places to pause before the next instalment, making the rulings of the reader-aloud obsolete. iv That illustration can act as a useful catalyst during this transfer, acting as another type of gateway for younger readers-within, effecting an alternative way into a narrative when the reader-aloud is not present.

79

Section 7: Reflections and key learning from interviews

v That at the conclusion of this transfer of power between the reader-aloud and the reader-within, the reader-within has now signicantly developed his or her comprehension and imagination, and can now do much of the work for themselves, slowly making gateway illustration obsolete. vi Thus illustration, if it is not specically relevant to the purpose and content of a narrative for older readers, is perhaps more effectively employed to induce nostalgia, and thus becomes more of a marketing tool than a necessity. If it is not specically relevant, it should be disregarded. vii Therefore serialisation of books may also be considered a way to induce nostalgia, as it represents a return to the pre-reader-within transfer. Many readers are disinclined to let go of this power. Forced seriality may again thus be better employed solely as a marketing device, rather than a viable, mainstream publishing practice. viii The exception to this, which represents an interesting anomaly, is television and social media, both of which are serial by nature, at least in the rst instance. Thus digital delivery ebooks where the very idea of drip-fed connectivity is already more familiar to users may be the only realistic opportunity for seriality, and is not of interest to me at this point. ix That the living voice is the single core aspect of storytelling, in that it brings immediacy and vitality to an imagined historical event, and being evident in both the authors voice and that of his or her characters. x In this sense the printed book is a facsimile of the oral tradition in which the speaker (the reader-aloud), absent in fact, could be said to be surrendering power to the listener (the reader-within). The result is a hybridisation within the self: a third entity, the reader-aloud to the inner self. xi That the conventions of printed dialogue the indent, quotation mark, return are introduced to emerging readers-within at an early age, and become familiar. As such they must be acknowledged by the writer before attempting to subvert them; and that any subversion must directly serve the text and the reader (as with illustration and seriality) to the improvement of the reading experience.

xii That these improvements will be appreciated, or not, subjectively, and so any decision to use them must be counter-balanced with a strict reasoning behind their use. In this sense the subversion of such conventions should be progressive rather than radical, maintaining safe passage for a reader unused to such interruptions. The purpose is to aid comprehension, not to challenge it. If comprehension is challenged, such tools should be disregarded. xiii That, without a narrative that is engaging to a substantial audience in and of itself, all of these dialogic devices become moot. xiv Therefore the only purpose of a narrative, or indeed any work of art, is to change consciousness. Thus all efforts must go into this ambition, with any tools brought to bear on this existing solely to assist this process.

80

Section 8 Iterating the MA question

About this section These MA questions beginning January 2012, and concluding, with the nal iteration, September 2013.

i How can I extend the visual, written and performed eld of works of the imagination? An initial, instinctive response to my interest in imagined worlds in art and literature, ancient and modern. ii What are the spaces between ction and non-ction in mythology, and how can I synthesise these to generate original works of the imagination? A development of the above as I investigate how mythologies emerge and thrive, and begin to wonder if I can create an artistic and literary mythology of my own. iii How do mythologies evolve and thrive, and how can I synthesise these processes to evolve a viable mythographic narrative of my own? A more rened articulation of the above. iv How can historical literary devices be redeployed to deliver a mythological reading experience to a modern audience? A substantial development, but not fully understood by me even at the time, and as such represents an intuition more than a discovery. By this point I had begun to observe many of the devices used to both maintain and manufacture myths. I also begin to connect myth and narrative more closely, and became particularly interested in how certain

81

Section 8: Iterating the MA question

printed textual devices seemed to give mythologies authority for example, the numbered chapters and verses of the bible. This was experimented with in the Index texts. In addition I was just beginning to think about ideas of seriality and illustration as ways of engaging a modern audience. These turned out to be diversions (see below). v How have popular narratives evolved and thrived between oral and written states, and how can I synthesise these processes to offer a viable narrative experience of my own? Here my ideas on illustration and seriality become more prevalent in my thinking. I had intuited wrongly as it turned out that illustrated and serialised adult ction might be viable for a 21st century reading audience. But I was also considering the power of the oral tradition to manifest a myth much more closely, as a result of my rst interviews. vi What are the opportunities for orality, serialisation and illustration in contemporary adult ction, and how can I synthesise my discoveries to develop an original narrative of my own? I am doggedly clinging on to seriality and illustration, though it soon becomes clear from interviews that orality the living voice, and dialogue is enough, and that the other elements are not viable or even necessarily desirable. vii How can expressions of the living voice be visualised in printed dialogue, and how can I synthesise my discoveries to develop an original storytelling experience of my own? I have abandoned illustration and serialisation as a result of interviews and encouraging early feedback from a tested dialogue-based narrative. This makes the MA question much more specic, and also allows for an equal weighting between ideas of printed dialogue and the production of an original narrative, both of which can be more readily tested and thereby iterated. My investigations into the historical and modern traditions of printed dialogue have also become all-consuming, raising a number of possibilities for the expression of the human voice on the printed page. However, the conict between testing a textual hypothesis within an original narrative is a challenge. As one interviewee puts it, I would be suspicious of any story that existed purely to prove a stylistic point. The bridge is only as interesting as the trafc that crosses it.

viii How can I develop an original and viable narrative that more nely articulates the orality of the living voice? The nal renement of the dialogue enquiry. The addition of the word viable was an important one, as I was determined to be read, and wished for the product to have a life beyond the MA in published form. Also, interviews with writers and readers had led me to think that I had the question the wrong way around: that it was pointless to write a novel as a response to a hypothesis that depended entirely upon content. Therefore, the story would have to come rst and only taken forward if it provided appropriate opportunity for dialogic experimentation. However, this in turn led to a number of nagging doubts about the whole printed dialogue enquiry itself, but as yet I was unable to fathom how this might be resolved. It would be a month before I was able to summon the condence to abandon what seemed to be an interesting thought and to allow myself to dispose of it. ix How do mythologies test morality, and how can I synthesise this knowledge to test a viable mythographic narrative of my own? It has become very clear from feedback and interviews that the question of typographical expressions of dialogue was as close to pointless as makes no difference: that the ne articulation of the living voice is not something that is achieved with typographic devices. Rather, it is the result of the writer being able to articulate the living voice nely within a narrative that is engaging in and of itself As the writer Adele Geras told me: You have to ask yourself what youre doing with the book. Are you performing fancy tricks with dialogue and typography, or are you telling a good story so that people can read it and enjoy it? This was hard to hear, but the benet of this was that my question had been answered, albeit in a frustrating way that would require some fresh and serious thinking from me to ask myself once again what I was actually trying to achieve. Re-examining the artefact that I had been working on in a clear light as a result of feedback allowed me to get to the bottom of what I actually wanted the book to do, and to return to my earlier enquiries with fresh eyes. Therefore the question was iterated accordingly to reect content, not style. In the case of Samuel/No Time for Sorrow, the book is effec-

82

Section 8: Iterating the MA question

tively a morality tale about living and dying, and how one lives affects how one dies. As a result into my earlier investigations into ancient and modern mythologies, I am interested in how morality may not be a set of rules dened by dogma, but by personal integrity; and by equivalent Newtonian rules of action / reaction in terms of religious and moral thought and behaviour, these can be tested by a writer on the minds of readers to effect changes in consciousness. x How can I create an original narrative that tests and explores our sense of morality? The nal, question, now clear and direct.

Postscript After two years in unfamiliar territories and without a nal destination in clear sight, I was struck by the connection between my nal, considered question and my earlier, intuitively conjured questions proposed over a year previously. I am left with the idea that time must be allowed for a number of diversions and wrong turns in order to reach a nal destination that may also be understood as a beginning; and how the processes of research, feedback and iteration are more closely aligned to self-examination than to product development. The result is a tested and supported sense of a maturing self, hard-won. In this sense it was not the work that was being iterated, but me.

83

Section 8: Iterating the MA question

After two years in unfamiliar territories and without a nal destination in clear sight, I was struck by the connection between my nal, considered question and my earlier, intuitively conjured questions proposed over a year previously. I am left with the idea that time must be allowed for a number of diversions and wrong turns in order to reach a nal destination that may also be understood as a beginning; and how the processes of research, feedback and iteration are more closely aligned to self-examination than to product development. The result is a tested and supported sense of a maturing self, hard-won. In this sense it was not the work that was being iterated, but me.

84

Section 9 Bibliography

Ackroyd, Peter and Chaucer, Geoffrey The Canterbury Tales Penguin Classics, 2012 Allain, Marcel and Souvestre, Pierre Fantomas Penguin Classics, 2006 Anon The Letters of Wanda Tinasky Vers Libre Press, 1996 Armitage, Simon Homers Odyssey Faber, 2007 Attar, Farid, Trans. Darbandi, Afkham and Davis, Dick The Conference of the Birds Penguin Classics, 2011 Ash, Russell et al Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain Readers Digest Association, 1973 Banville, John et al Imagined Lives: Mystery Portraits National Portrait Gallery, 2010 Barlowe, Wayne Barlowes Guide to Extraterrestrials Workman Publishing, 1988

Barnes, Julian A History of the World in 10 Chapters Picador, 1990 Barthes, Roland Mythologies Vintage Classics, 2009 Blegvad, Peter see London Institute of Pataphysics Boccaccio, Giovanni Trans. G.H. McWilliam The Decameron Penguin Classics, 2003 Booker, Christopher The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories Continuum, 2005 Borges, Jorge Luis The Book of Imaginary Beings Vintage Classics, 2002 Borges, Jorge Luis Fictions Penguin Classics, 2000 Borges, Jorge Luis A Universal History of Iniquity Penguin Classics, 2006 Boyd, William Nat Tate, An American Artist Bloomsbury, 2011

85

Section 9: Bibliography

Brotchie, Alastair see London Institute of Pataphysics Brown, Kerry and Palmer, Martin (Ed.) The Essential Teachings of Islam Arrow, 1990 Bruce, Susan (Ed.) Three Early Modern Utopias: Thomas More: Utopia / Francis Bacon: New Atlantis / Henry Neville: Isle of Pines Oxford Paperbacks, 2008 Byatt, A.S. Ragnarok: The End of the Gods Canongate, 2012 Calvino, Italo The Complete Cosmicomics Penguin, 2009 Calvino, Italo The Castle of Crossed Destinies Vintage, 1997 Carey, John (Ed.) The Faber Book of Utopias Faber and Faber, 1999 Carlsen, Asger see Its Nice That Chabon, Michael Gentlemen of the Road Sceptre, 2008 Chabon, Michael The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay Fourth Estate, 2001 Chapman, Allan Gods In The Sky Channel 4 Books, 2002 Chatwin, Bruce What Am I Doing Here? Viking 1989 Clarke, Susanna Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell Bloomsbury, 2005

Conan Doyle, Arthur The Exploits and Adventures of Brigadier Gerard Penguin Classics, 2008 Conan Doyle, Arthur Tales of Unease Wordsworth, 2008 The Contemporary English Bible HarperCollins 2000 Dahlquist, G.W. Glass Books of the Dreameaters Penguin, 2006 Dan, Joseph Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction Oxford University Press, 2007 Danchev, Alex 100 Artists Manifestos Penguin Modern Classics, 2011 Davies, Sioned (Trans.) The Mabinogion Oxford Worlds Classics, 2008 Disraeli, Isaac Curiosities of Literature Frederick Warne & Co., 1881 Eco, Umberto Foucaults Pendulum Vintage, 2001 Eco, Umberto The Name of the Rose Vintage, 2001 Eisenhart, Willie The World of Donald Evans Abbeville Press, 1980 Elman, Robert Badmen of the West Ridge Press, 1974 Frazer, JG The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion MacMillan, 1963

Freke, Timothy and Gandy, Peter The Hermetica Tarcher Cornerstone, 1999 Frey, James A Million Little Pieces John Murray, 2004 Haining, Peter Ancient Mysteries Sidgwick and Jackson, 1977 Hall, Steven The Raw Shark Texts Canongate, 2007 Hamilton, Edith Mythology Mentor, 1969 Harris, Robert Selling Hitler: The Story of the Hitler Diaries Faber and Faber 1987 Harrison, Harry The Stainless Steel Rat Sphere, 1974 Hesse, Hermann Steppenwolf Penguin Classics, 2001 Hickes, Francis (Trans.) Lucians True History AH Bullen, 1902 Hilton, James Lost Horizon Summersdale, 2005 Hoffman, Paul The Left Hand of God Penguin, 2010 Hoffman, Paul The Last Four Things Penguin, 2012 Holub, Miroslav The Dimension of the Present Moment Faber and Faber, 1990 Hope, Anthony The Prisoner of Zenda Penguin Classics, 2007

Hope, Anthony Rupert of Hentzau Penguin Classics, 2008 Howard, Philip The British Library Scala, 2008 Its Nice That #6 Interview with Asger Carlsen Its Nice That, 2003 Jarry, Alfred Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician Exact Change, 1996 Juster, Norton Alberic The Wise Nelson and Sons, 1965 Keller, Werner The Bible As History The Reprint Society, 1958 Kossoff, David Bible Stories Fount, 1999 Kossoff, David The Book of Witnesses Fount, 1983 Levi, Primo The Periodic Table Abacus, 1998 Levi, Primo The Sixth Day Abacus, 1998 Levi-Strauss, Claude Myth and Meaning Routledge Classics, 2001 London Institute of Pataphysics: Brotchie, Alastair (Ed.) et al Encomia for Anthony Hancock Atlas Press, 2002 London Institute of Pataphysics: Brotchie, Alastair (Ed.) et al ? Pataphysics: Denitions & Citations Atlas Press, 2003

86

Section 9: Bibliography

London Institute of Pataphysics: Blegvad, Peter (Ed.) et al The Journal of the London Institute of Pataphysics Number 6 Atlas Press, 2012 Lovecraft, HP The Whisperer in The Darkness: Collected Stories Volume One Wordsworth, 2007 Lyons, Malcolm C. (Trans.) The Arabian Nights Penguin Classics, 2010 MacDonald Fraser, George The Flashman Papers HarperCollins, 2005 Manser, Martin and Curtis, Stephen The Penguin Writers Manual Penguin, 2002 Maxwell-Stuart, PG The Chemical Choir: A History of Alchemy Continuum, 2008 Milton, John Miltons Comus, Lallegro, and Il Penseroso, with Numerous Illustrative Notes etc. BiblioBazaar, 2008 Moorcock, Michael The Cornelius Chronicles Vol. One Avon, 1977 More, Thomas Utopia Penguin Classics, 1987 Pratchett, Terry Feet of Clay Corgi, 1997 Psalmanazar, George Memoirs of ____, Commonly Known by the Name of George Psalmanazar; a Reputed Native of Formosa London, 1764

Pullman, Philip Northern Lights Scholastic, 2011 Pullman, Philip The Subtle Knife Scholastic, 2011 Pullman, Philip The Amber Spyglass Scholastic, 2011 Pynchon, Thomas V Picador, 1975 Ronnberg, Ami and Martin, Kathleen (Ed.) The Book of Symbols Taschen, 2010 Safran Foer, Jonathan Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Penguin, 2006 Sitwell, Edith English Eccentrics Penguin, 1983 Stewart, RJ Living Magical Arts Blandford, 1987 Stoker, Bram Dracula Four Corners Books, 2009 Vine, Barbara King Solomons Carpet Penguin, 2009 Vonnegut, Kurt Breakfast of Champions Vintage Classics, 1992 Westell, WP The Animals And Their Story Epworth Press

Websites

Antiquanova http://www.antiquanova.cz/ inshop/scripts/shop.aspx The Countess of Pembrokes Arcadia at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Countess_of_ Pembroke%27s_Arcadia Dickens Use of Serial Form in Great Expectations http://nataliv22.wordpress. com/2012/10/11/greatexpectations/ Fifty State Quarters http://www.50statequarters. org/ The Folio Society http://www.foliosociety.com/ Numismatic Terms http://www.telecoins.com/ gloss.html Hardbat http://www.hardbat.com/ International Table Tennis Hall of Fame http://www.ittf.com/ museum/Hof/HoF.html Jack Zipes at Mick Gower CSA http://mickgowarcsa.org.uk/ Contextual_Studies/Jack_ Zipes,_Leverhulme_Visiting_ Professor,_2013_2.html

Jonathan Gottschalls The Storytelling Animal at Brain Pickings http://www.brainpickings. org/index.php/2012/05/03/ the-storytellinganimal-jonathan-gottschall/ McSweeneys Guide to Book Submissions http://www.mcsweeneys. net/pages/guidelines-for-book-submissions Palm Tree Care http://www.sunpalmtrees. com/Palm-Trees-Resources. htm Reading After McLuhan http://endinginabook.designwallah.com Sefer Raziel HaMalakh at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Sefer_Raziel_HaMalakh The Seven Basic Plot Types http://childrenspublishing. blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/ writing-inspiration-sevenbasic-plot.html Short Story Markets http://www.jbwb.co.uk/ markets.html Visual Editions http://www.visual-editions. com/

87

Section 9: Bibliography

Visual writing : a critique of graphic devices in hybrid novels by Sadokierski, Zoe http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/ research/handle/2100/1042 What Became of Illustrated Books in Fiction? by Darragh McManus at The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/ books/2011/dec/13/ illustrations-ction-novels Adam Dants Donald Parsnips Daily Journal http://pfamis.wordpress. com/2011/04/06/ adam-dant-donaldparsnips-daily-journal/ Association of Art Historians: Imaginary Artists 2011 http://www.mariaclarabernal. com/?p=143 Atlas Press / LIP: Anthony Hancock http://www.atlaspress.co.uk/ theLIP/dora-hancock.html Barlows Guide to Extraterrestrials at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Barlowes_Guide_to_Extraterrestrials Deface Value http://defacevalue.com/ Douglas Hofstadters Gdel, Escher, Bach at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Gdel,_Escher,_Bach Edgar Rice Burroughs Pellucidar at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Pellucidar Ferdinand Waldo Demara at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Ferdinand_Waldo_Demara Forbes Fictional Fifteen http://www.forbes.com/ 2010/04/13/ctional-15richest-charactersopinions-ctional_land.html

Fuck Yeah Fictional Maps Joe Orton: The Islington http://fuckyeahctionalmaps. Library Books tumblr.com/ http://www.joeorton.org/ Pages/Joe_Orton_Life11. Geospatial Information html Authority of Japan: Maps of Imaginary Animal Islands John Devlins http://www.gsi.go.jp/ Novacantabrigiensis ENGLISH/page_e30063.html http://www. novacantabrigiensis.ca/ H. G. Wells A Modern Utopia at Wikipedia John Hughes Shermer http://en.wikipedia.org/ High School wiki/A_Modern_Utopia http://courtneyrounds. blogspot.co.uk/2009/04/ Historic Figures at BBC if-shermer-highschool-wasHistory real-place.html http://www.bbc.co.uk/ history/historic_gures/ Journal of the Imaginary and the Fantastic Ian Ward at The Horse http://www.jurn.org/ Hospital ejournal/ http://www.thehorsehospital. com/past/the-chamber-ofLucian of Samosata Archive pop-culture-past/buntis-pic- at University of Adelaide ture-show-ian-ward/ http://ebooks.adelaide.edu. au/l/lucian/works/complete. IFS Ltd. html http://www.ifs-l.biz/#book The Mapping of Sodor Imaginary Island Studies at http://www.pegnsean. The International Montessori net/~railwayseries/ Council mapsection.htm http://www.montessori.org/ imc/index.php?option=com_ The Meir Agassi Museum content&view=article&id=63: at Jerusalem Post imaginary-island-studies&http://www.jpost.com/ catid=83:elementary-6-12 ArtsAndCulture/Arts/Article. &Itemid=74 aspx?id=179395 Jacques Carelmans Impossible Objects http://impossibleobjects. com/catalogue.html Mingering Mike at Smithsonian American Art Museum http://www.americanart. si.edu/collections/ acquisitions/mingering_ mike/index.cfm

Museum in a Shoebox http://www.museumina shoebox.com/ Museum of Hoaxes http://www.museumof hoaxes.com/ The Mythical Island of Frisland at Proof of Theory http://www.riaanbooysen. com/terra-aus/87terraproof1?start=7 Niels Klims Underground Travels at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Niels_Klim%27s_Underground_Travels Noxious Sector http://www.noxioussector. net/ The Olaf Stapledon Archive at SF Hub http://www.sfhub.ac.uk/ Stapledon.htm Princess Caraboo http://www.janeausten. co.uk/princess-caraboofrom-the-island-of-javasu/ Principality of Sealand at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Principality_of_Sealand Retronaut http://www.retronaut.com/ Robert Anton Wilson at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Robert_Anton_Wilson Robert Holdstock at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Robert_Holdstock Sophie Calle at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Sophie_Calle Strange Maps at Big Think http://bigthink.com/blogs/ strange-maps

Jesus and friends at Unusual Cards http://www.unusualcards. com/Jesus_and_Friends.html Modern pictures of Jesus http://www.goodsalt.com/ Jesus and the dinosaurs search/jesus_christ_modern. http://www.dailydawdle. html com/2011/10/10-epicportraits-of-jesus-and.html A modern take on The Last Supper Joan Fontcubera at http://sheofferedthemchrist. WikiPedia com/2011/10/29/ahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ modern-take-on-the-lastJoan_Fontcuberta supper.aspx

88

Section 9: Bibliography

Theodore Bachaus at Letterology http://letterology.blogspot. co.uk/2011/04/geologicaltypography.html Wilhelm Voigt at Koepenickia http://www.koepenickia.de/ Zaum at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Zaum Culture Wise http://www.culturewise.org/ Just Radio http://www.justradio.ltd.uk/ Ladbroke Productions http://www.ladbrokeradio. com/arts.html Smooth Operations http://www.ubcmedia.com/ smoothoperations/ Whistledown Productions http://www.whistledown.net/ David Garcia at Design Boom http://www.designboom. com/art/david-garciastudio-the-archive-series/ Hiram Abiff at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Hiram_Abiff Kurator http://www.kurator.org/ The Mindscape of Alan Moore http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=UEeVzvoy_88 The man who turned his home into a public library at BBC News http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ magazine-19547365 The Public Domain Review http://publicdomainreview. org/

The Sacred Geometry of Metatrons Cube http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=ZOqg5bPZ0HE The Tree of Life at Digital Brilliance http://www.digital-brilliance. com/themes/tol.php

89

10

Section 10 Calendar

Saturday 30/11/13 Exhibition construction, CSM Friday 29/11/13 Final synopsis delivered to Richie Manu Monday 25/11/13 Editing of live reading video footage with Simon Coxall Wednesday 13/11/13 Live reading of No Time for Sorrow at Davids Bookshop Tuesday 29/10/13 Penultimate synopsis delivered to Richie Manu Wednesday 23/10/13 Leaet distributed inviting customers of Davids Bookshop to attend a live reading of No Time for Sorrow) Tuesday 15/10/13 Exhibition strategy meeting at CSM Tuesday 08/10/13 Group artefact showcase at CSM Friday 04/10/13 Feedback on Samuel at 20,000 words received from Rima Green. Tuesday 01/10/13 Project update sent to Richie Manu.

Sunday 29/09/13 Video recordings of book readings for exhibition Monday 23/09/13 Interview with Sara Maitland Friday 20/09/13 Tutorial with Richie Manu. Wednesday 18/09/13 Feedback on Samuel at 20,000 words received from Malcolm Jobling. Monday 09/09/13 Degree show meeting and presentation at CSM. Sunday 08/09/13 Project update sent to Richie Manu. Saturday 07/09/13 MA question revised in response to feedback. Thursday 05/09/13 Feedback on Samuel at 20,000 words received from Geoffrey Bunting. Wednesday 04/09/13 Feedback on Samuel at 20,000 words received from Brenda Jobling. Thursday 22/08/13 Feedback on Samuel at 20,000 words received from Will Hill.

90

Section 10: Calendar

Tuesday 30/07/13 Feedback on Samuel at 20,000 words received from Amy Willoughby. Monday 29/07/13 Degree show meeting and presentation at CSM. Monday 08/07/13 Degree show team leader meeting at CSM. Saturday 06/07/13 Brief sent to design team for degree show graphics. Thursday 27/06/13 Interview with Adele Geras, Cambridge, UK. Feedback on Samuel at 20,000 words received from Rachel Corby. Monday 24/06/13 Interview with Steve Gorman, Amsterdam (via Skype). Wednesday 19/06/13 Tutorial with Richie Manu at CSM; meet with curation team for degree show preliminary discussion. Tuesday 18/06/13 Initial FT and PT meeting at CSM to discuss degree show. Volunteer to lead design team. Thursday 18/06/13 Feedback on Samuel at 20,000 words received from Catherine Rowe. Saturday 15/06/13 Samuel reaches the 20,000 word mark. First round feedback emails sent out to readers. Monday 03/06/13 Meeting with Catherine Rowe to discuss illustration for Samuel. Friday 31/05/13 Synopsis and schedule submitted to Richie Manu, CSM.

Tuesday 21/05/13 Steve Gorman agrees to be interviewed. First draft of Samuel shared with Catherine Rowe. Monday 20/05/13 Jack Zipes cancels interview due to personal issues; returns to USA. Friday 17/05/13 Interview with David Trent cancelled due to amended MA question. Saturday 08/05/13 Jack Zipes agrees to be interviewed. Friday 07/05/13 Sara Maitland agrees to be interviewed. Stewart Lee cancels interview due to other commitments. Tuesday 30/04/13 Meeting with creative writing PhD researcher Tiffani Angus, Cambridge, UK. Monday 29/04/13 Adele Geras agrees to be interviewed. Thursday 25/04/13 Interview requests sent to Sara Maitland, Jack Zipes and Adele Geras. Wednesday 24/04/13 Visit to Anglia Ruskin University to see Sara Maitland, Jack Zipes and Adele Geras in conversation. Each agree in principle to be interviewed. Wednesday 24/04/13 David Trent agrees to be interviewed. Tuesday 26/04/13 Interim Artefact Exhibition at CSM. Thursday 04/04/13 Interview with Catherine Rowe, Cambridge, UK.

Wednesday 03/04/13 Interview with Will Hill, Cambridge, UK. Sunday 24/03/13 Catherine Rowe agrees to be interviewed. Friday 22/03/13 Interview with Brenda Jobling, Potters Bar, UK. Tuesday 19/03/13 Visual Editions politely decline to be interviewed. Saturday 16/03/13 Evolution of Angels exhibition at Hungate Medieval Art Thursday 14/03/13 Interview request sent to Anna Gerber, Britt Iversen and Kathryn Lewis of Visual Editions. Tuesday 12/03/13 Meeting with illustrator Catherine Rowe to discuss collaboration. Thursday 07/03/13 Will Hill agrees to be interviewed. Thursday 07/03/13 Meeting with Chris Draper, BA Illustration Course Leader, to discuss undergraduate collaboration. Wednesday 06/03/13 Interview request sent to writer Brenda Jobling, who immediately agrees. Wednesday 06/03/13 Interview requests sent to Will Hill, David Pearson. Tuesday 05/03/13 Tutorial with Richie Manu at CSM. Tuesday 26/02/13 Meeting with Richard Wallace at Davids Bookshop to discuss the hosting of a book reading.

Saturday 16/02/13 Visit to The Wellcome Collection to see Death. Monday 11/02/13 Stewart Lee agrees to an interview. Monday 11/02/13 Tutorial with Richie Manu at CSM. Friday 08/02/13 Interview request sent to Stewart Lee. Wednesday 6/02/13 Metatrons Seat accepted by Hungate Medieval Art for exhibition. Monday 28/01/13 Man of a Thousand Corpses shared with Alastair Brotchie and Chris Allen of the London Institute of Pataphysics. Saturday 26/01/13 Visit to Tring Museum to see the Rothschild Collection. Friday 25/01/13 Completion of Man of a Thousand Corpses, a D-Type Murphy that extends the pataphysical world of Anthony Hancock. Friday 11/01/13 Recording session for Small Adventures in Accessible Places. Thursday 27/12/12 Submission of proposal for Metatrons Seat to Hungate Medieval Art for Evolution of Angels exhibition. Sunday 16/12/12 Meet with stonemason Mimi Rousell to discuss manufacture of the work Metatrons Seat for Hungate Medieval Arts Evoulution of Angels Sunday 16/12/12 Publication of Notction Manifesto.

91

Section 10: Calendar

Tuesday 11/12/12 Publish MA work schedule, describing all proposed projects, deadlines and interviews for 2013. Wednesday 5/12/12 Attend MA AICI exhibition at CSM with PhD researcher Artemis Albert. Friday 30/11/12 Publication of Citadel for Noura Al Khasawneh. Monday 26/11/12 Publication of Tactum 1 for Rima Musa Wednesday 21/11/12 PT interim exhibition of work; present the artwork System 2, read from A Balkan State of Mind, and reference made works of the imagination to date; followed by tutorial with Paul Colbeck. Monday 19/11/12 Publication of System 2, a table using alchemical symbols to chart the openings, researches, interventions and intentions relating to works of the imagination in seven stages. Wednesday 14/11/12 PT discussion on planning, reiterating and re-questioning; consider the nautilus shell as a metaphor for discrete cycles of expansion and progression; introduce the artwork System as a way of describing my pattern of activities. Monday 12/11/12 Publication of System, a two-dimensional map of four-dimensional spaces, being the preoccupations of the artist. Saturday 10/11/12 Work shared via email with M/M Paris and Paul Neale of GTF.

Wednesday 7/11/12 Attend live discussion with M/M Paris at CSM, at which Michael Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak (M/M Paris) and Paul Neale (Graphic Thought Facility) reect on their most recent collaboration, the M/M monograph The M to M of M/M Paris; meet with M, M and Paul after; PT seminar on reection and evaluation the differences between, where they overlap, and the cycles of both. Monday 5/11/12 Publication of A Balkan State of Mind or Me, Me, Me: On Heteronyms and Works of The Imagination, which takes the form of an interview with myself as a way of explaining my current works and practices. Wednesday 24/10/12 Post-summer break PT presentations of projects; tutorial with Paul Colbeck at CSM. Thursday 18/10/12 Publication of Applied Imagination, an introduction to the course for the MA Applied Imagination 2012 degree show. Friday 5/10/12 Photoshoot for Milk and Honey project: As Adam In The Garden of Eden at Oughtonhead Nature Reserve, Hitchin, with photographer Rima Musa. Thursday 30/8/12 Tutorial with Paul Colbeck at CSM.

92

Appendices

Appendix (i) A key text: Umberto Ecos Foucaults Pendulum

Even though I was, by the Spring of Year 2, rmly set on the novel as the format by which to frame my enquiries, there were still occasional doubts that I should be making something more elevated, more experimental. Just at this point I came across this passage from Umberto Ecos Foucaults Pendulum. Here the character Belbo expounds an idea that Great Art has lied to him, and that greater truths are to be found in common ction novels. It was a key turning point, giving me the full condence to pursue the work in a conventional format, but to experiment within those conventions, and is noted here as such.

Above: Umberto Eco, Foucaults Pendulum, Vintage 2001, pp. 495-496

93

Appendices

Appendix (ii) A key experience: Death at the Wellcome Collection


Coming immediately after one key moment (see Appendix i), another: the exhibition Death at the Wellcome Collection, London. Exactly what occurred at this exhibition is difcult to articulate, even now. But it struck me that so much human effort had gone into contemplating death and its meaning; and yet, conversely, the subject seemed perennial, inexhaustible. For me it seemed that death was where art, religion, science, and belief truly met. Having decided to write a novel for the MA, I now had a subject. In death our morality on earth is tested nally, completely at least, this is the idea. It seemed the perfect moment with which to begin a story that would describe a questionable moral history, and thus a moral dilemma for the reader. Below is the text for the show as taken from the Wellcome Collection website: A major winter exhibition showcases some 300 works from a unique collection devoted to the iconography of death and our complex and contradictory attitudes towards it. Assembled by Richard Harris, a former antique print dealer based in Chicago, the collection is spectacularly diverse, including art works, historical artefacts, scientic specimens and ephemera from across the world. Rare prints by Rembrandt, Drer and Goya will be displayed alongside anatomical drawings, war art and antique metamorphic postcards; human remains will be juxtaposed with Renaissance vanitas paintings and twentieth century installations celebrating Mexicos Day of the Dead. From a group of ancient Incan skulls, to a spectacular chandelier made of 3000 plaster-cast bones by British artist Jodie Carey, this singular collection, by turns disturbing, macabre and moving, opens a window upon our enduring desire to make peace with death.

94

Appendices

95

Appendices

96

Appendices

Appendix (iii) Examples of authors plot maps and outlines

Norman Mailers character map for Harlots Ghost

97

Appendices

JK Rowlings plot map for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

98

Appendices

99

Appendices

Joseph Hellers outline for Catch 22

100

Appendices

101

Appendices

Meagre in comparison, but representing a beginning, a small part of the plot map for No Time for Sorrow, arranged in order from left to right around the room

102

Appendices

103

After two years in unfamiliar territories and without a nal destination in clear sight, I was struck by the connection between my nal, considered MA question and my intuitively conjured questions proposed over a year previously. I am left with the idea that time must be allowed for a number of diversions and wrong turns in order to reach an ending that may also be understood as a beginning; and how the processes of research, feedback and iteration are more closely aligned to selfexamination than to product development. In this sense it was not the narrative that was being iterated, but me.