In the twelve years after Withnail & I, its creator struggled to fend off faceless executives. With his first published novel, BRUCE ROBINSON is in full control. Unlike his character's bowels.
.\Iention the name Bruce Robinson and you are likely to be tnet with three differing replies — a) stony silence; h) ‘is he a character in ' .Velg/Ilmn1'5"."; or c) .s‘cene renditions or quotes from the all- enduring classic of 80s British cinema. ll'irlmuil & /. Being remembered for one piece of work can either haye albatross-like properties or be seen as one more success than the majority of writers can claim w hen they die.
The man himself cheerfully Points to the latter. ‘I loyed it because it w orked.‘ admits Robinson. ‘I’ye written do/ens that haye neyer seen the light of day but that one has suryiyed. It's not a period of my life I'd like to go through again but I had a laugh. It seems to jump generations. eyery new wad of students are like “let's haye a yindaloo. get pissed and watch Hit/mull & I". Though I don't recommend the Ieyel of drinking in it.‘
Ilaying forged a niche for himself in cultdom corner. Robinson went on to write and direct the spot- on critique of 80s marketing and manipulation in l/mi‘ To (let .-I/teml In .‘It/I't’l'lfﬁ'lllg before being sucked into IIoIIywood hell with Jennifer 8. a serial- killer thriller. ‘It was fucking awful.‘ he recalls. 'After Jennifer A’ I neyer wanted to direct again but I do now — people get paid more money ‘ than you to second guess you. If you're a director. you‘ye really got to be the captain of the ship and by the end. I had written and directed a film I didn‘t understand.’
.\'ow though. Robinson is back on board and fully in control of the creatiye wheel with his debut published noyel. T/te l’eeuliur .llemorlex (Ill/minus Pen/nun is the story of a young boy growing tip in 1950s rural Iingland. Penman — ‘a thirteen-year-old asthmatic short-arse with big ears' falls hopelessly in love. has a defecation problem. deyelops a fascination for his grandfather‘s pornography collection and slowly uncovers the truth
about his roots. Given the autobiographical glories of
ll'irlmuil & I. critics and consumers alike will be
92 THE LIST 30 Apt—14 May 1998
‘tﬁihgxttétzer i'tiii‘éiiiiji . : that I have it; gii’ilfiliiiﬁé'ii‘ifti Witimail and ever: spend my entire. lire raging around the countryside in an aid Jaguar iuii of red wirm.’
Bruce Robinson: memory man
falling oyer themselyes in snatching clues to read it as the life of Bruce. ‘Yeah. it's a lot to do with my life but some of the stuff in there I couldn‘t haye made up.’ insists Robinson. ‘Whateyer minute reputation that I haye is predicated on ll'it/muil and eyeryone thinks I spend my entire life raging around the countryside in an old Jaguar full of red wine. I'm a happily married. middle-aged man.‘
Despite the humour of the noyel. and there is much of it. it took an age for Robinson to find the strength to get the story down. ‘I'ye neyer been able to discuss the lineage and geography with anyone in my family. Nobody would eyer -r ~ talk to me about it so I m“; “egg/3kg I wanted to find a solution. I ‘. . tried it in about 197—1 but I couldn't get the laughs out — it‘s only now that I could.‘
Despite his problems with faceless moyie execs. for Robinson. it's all about telling the story. ‘I don’t differentiate between directing. screenwriting or noyeI-writing. Some gttys can tell a good joke and others can‘t — the whole thing is about being able to tell the joke.‘ Bruce Robinson is a man who can.
The Peculiar Memories Of Thomas Penman by Bruce Robinson is published on Thu 7 May by Bloomsbury at £14.99. Robinson is at Assembly Rooms, George Street, Edinburgh, Wed 6, 7.30pm. See book events.
The write stuff
Suzannah Dunn has been described as a ’surgeon of the heart’, and has ’a gift for making the ordinary seem extraordinary’. Yeah, but what was her nickname at school? FIVE WORDS TO DESCRIBE
YOURSELF: Depressive, anxious,
contrary, ambivalent, amphibian. FIVE WORDS TO DESCRIBE TENTERHOOKS: A collection of short stories.
SHORT STORY VS. NOVEL: I suppose my preference as both a reader and writer is for short stories. Which isn't to say that sometimes nothing but a big fat novel will do - to read, not write.
DO YOU READ/CARE ABOUT REVIEWS: I read them if they're sent by the publicity department. I'm sanguine about them.
BOOK THAT MADE YOU WANT TO BECOME A WRITER: No book made me want to become a writer.
People, their lives and stories, did.
BOOK THAT YOU WISH YOU’D
WRITTEN: Alice Munro's Lives of
Girls and Women.
FUTURE OF THE NOVEL FORM: Not something that I ever think about in anything other than personal terms — will I write another novel? And how much might I be paid for it? AMBITIONS: Not to have to work — at writing or, as at present, a job -
for more than four days a week. To
spend winters in a warm climate.
FEARS: Prison because I’m claustrophobic, obsessive about privacy, faddy with food and compulsive about my daily swim. NICKNAME: Pseudzannah — or Pseud for short — when l was a sixth former.
IDEA OF HELL: Winter.
IDEA OF HEAVEN: Warm, early summer.
WHAT YOU DO TO WIND DOWN: Go to bed.
WHAT YOU DO TO GET HIGH: Go to bed. (Brian Donaldson)
as Tonterhooks IS published by
I Flamingo at [72 99