Putting debut novelists under the microscope. This issue: Michel Faber
Who he? Brought up in Australia since 1967, Dutch-born Faber graduated from Melbourne Uni with a degree in English, married a fellow writer and learned to earn money by being a nurse. After they divorced he moved to Scotland with his second wife, Eva. Although he has been writing since primary school, he never tried to get published because he 'was too poor — or too stingy - to spend the money on posting a manuscript.’ Eva persuaded him the idea would be worthwhile. His short fiction won the Macallan/ Scotland on Sunday prize in '96, the Neil Gunn prize in ’97 and the Ian St James award in '98.
His debut ls called Some Rain Must Fall and is a collection of short stories including the three prizewinners. Basically . . . It shows a mature and elegant writer, at ease with a wide variety of styles and range of voices.
A bit of a hatch potch then Not in the least, this is crafted stuff: more of a groaning tea-trolley, loaded with tasty morsels. Faber has a canny ability to define and inspect people's constructions of their own identity and is at his best while doing so. Moreover, unlike many would-be short story writers, he knows exactly how long to play with a good idea before letting it rest.
Best first line 'Having read the signs carefully, I confirmed that I was over eighteen and that explicit nudity didn't offend me, so I walked into the Tunnel of Love to find a job,’ from 'The Tunnel Of Love.’
To whom the book is dedicated ’To Eva, for help of every imaginable kind.’ (Thom Dibdin)
ﬂ Scottish Writers For Breakfast, Spiegeltent, 14 Aug, 10.30am, £6 (E 4); Imprisoned Writers, Napiers Herbalists Lifestyle Tent, 16 Aug, 5.30pm, free tickets; Cultural ID, Gap Studio Theatre, 16 Aug, 7pm, £5 (£3).
94 THE usT 12—19 Aug 1999
IMPRISONED WRITERS/TEATIME TALK Edwina Currie
Original splnnenEdwina Cit
Edwina Currie is a complex character or, as she insists 'an original’. Any born socialist would naturally feel adversarial towards her, but you can't help also having sneaking admiration.
Her latest novel, The Ambassador, is her own spin on the effects of genetic science applied to humans in a super- powerful European Union 100 years from now. As a 'red-haired Liverpool lass’, she noticed how a certain type of blue-eyed male rose more easily through the government ranks. Hardly surprising then that she betrays a distrust for arrogant power elites who think they are above the law. Not that she has changed her spots. ’The best government is a radical Conservative one,’ she believes.
The Ambassador is the insight of a pro-European feminist Tory on the possible mechanics of power in Europe next century. It's not great literature, but it's a damn good read.
[Imprisoned Writers, Napiers Herbalists Lifestyle Tent, 17 Aug,
5. 30pm, free tickets; Edwina Currie (Teatime Talk) Spiegeltent, 17 Aug, 6.30pm, £6 (£4).
LECTURE Jonathon Green On Slang
Would you Adam and Eve it? Britain's leading lexicographer, Jonathon Green, is coming to the sophisticated city of Edinburgh to talk about, of all things, slang.
Over the years, slang has become an intrinsic part of the English language and more than anyone, Jonathon Green knows his fraggles from his flapdoodles. As the man behind the Cassell Dictionary Of Slang, Green complied an exhaustive list of colloquialisms and expressions from all over the English-speaking world.
As part of the Festival lecture series, Green gives his very own guided tour of some of the more interesting and, at times, verging on obscene turns of phrase which have slipped in and out of common usage.
Surely much more fun than getting banjoed at a gay and hearty or a pigs ear in the rub-a-dub. If you know what I mean. (Mark Robertson)
l Jonathon Green On Slang (Lecture) Gap Studio Theatre, 14 Aug, noon, £5 (£3).
SPECIAL EVENT . Norway Sunday
Think Norway, think fjords, A-Ha, even Kirk Douglas in a horned Viking helmet. Less thought of is Norway as a home for quality contemporary writing. Some dedicated folks intend to change perceptions with a varied bill of writers making up Norway Sunday.
Quite different to Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, the day commences with breakfast with all the authors involved. Hot on its heels is a Children’s event with Bjorn Sortland and Lars Elling, appealing to everyone from the potty-trained to pensioners, guiding the audience through a history of modern art.
Later, two of the country's young talents, poet and novelist Rune Christiansen whose books are set in Glasgow, and critic and debuting novelist Linn Ullmann, appear in a show entitled The Bigger Picture.
International best-selling author Erik Fosnes Hansen rounds off the proceedings with a debate on Cultural Identity And Small Nations with Colin Bell and Philip Marsden. Ska‘l! (Mark Robertson)
- Norway Sunday, various venues, 15 Aug.
DISCUSSION/PERFORMANCE POETRY Jackie Kay
Blowing her own trumpet: Jackie Kay
As a poet for children and adults, Edinburgh-born and Glasgow-bred Jackie Kay has amassed a clutch of prizes and awards. In addition, her debut novel, Trumpet won the 1998 Guardian fiction prize. This year, Book Festival~goers can see her wearing both her hats within hours: first discussing how a real event was the starting point to her novel; later, performing with fellow poet Lemn Sissay in the Spiegeltent.
Children like her poems because they speak about issues they can relate to and understand. This same insight informs her adult poetry collections, and her novel Trumpet uses her precise, uncluttered style to tell how Joss Moody, the jazz trumpeter, had a
secret he was unable to take to the grave. He was, in fact, a woman. Whichever hat she wears, one can still recognise the quality both her novel and her poems share: respectfulness. (Gabe Stewart)
I From Fact To Fiction (Discussion) Post Ofﬁce Theatre, 19 Aug, 5pm, £7 (£5); Lemn Sissay and Jackie Kay (Performance Poetry) Spiegeltent, 19 Aug, 9pm, £7 (£5).
MEET THE AUTHOR/THE BIGGER PICTURE/ CULTURAL ID André Brink
When South African writer Andre Brink's 1974 novel Looking On Darkness was banned by the government, the author refused to be silenced. If his books could not be read in his native Afrikaans, he would write them in English too. Ironically Brink, an outspoken opponent of apartheid, thus reached an audience far beyond his homeland with his fictional despatches from the frontline. lf books like A Dry White Season had undeniable political content, in recent years Brink has had to look beyond the immediate goal of a democratic South Africa. His two post-apartheid novels deal with a denser kind of storytelling about his homeland, mixing myth and metaphor with the complex reality.
At the Festival, as well as discussing his recent book Devil's Valley, Brink will take part in a discussion on democracy alongside Herta Muller and Earl Lovelace. We should listen carefully to a writer who for many years kept his eye on that prize. (Moira Jeffrey)
. Andre Brink (Meet The Author) Post Office Theatre, 17 Aug, 11.30am, £6 (£4); Andre Brink (The Bigger Picture) Gap Studio Theatre, 19 Aug, 3. 30pm, £5 (£3); International Writers On Democracy (Cultural ID) Post Ofﬁce Theatre, 20 Aug, 1pm, £6 (£4).
KIDS ROUND-UP Events For Children
Art is a definite theme this week, with the highlight being the first ever visit to the Festival of the first ever Children’s Laureate, Quentin Blake (17 Aug). Appointed in May, he will illustrate his creative process to the over-nines, and talk about the Challenge of engaging young people's minds. Six to ten-year- olds who don't want to talk but do, should try John Byrne's Cartoon Workshop (17 Aug).
What is the difference between cartoons and modern art? Find out on Norway Sunday, when Bjorn Sortland and Lars Elling introduce five to ten- year-olds to the masters of modern art (15 Aug).
Other highlights include local author Debi Gliori tackling the big questions Children ask (14 Aug), Brian Jacques, author of Redwall (1 4-1 5 Aug), Theresa Breslin whose gentle, funny stories deal with family issues (16 Aug) and multi award-winning Anne Fine, author of Flour Babies and Madame Doubtfire (16 Aug). (Gabe Stewart)
I Events For Children, various venues, 14-30 Aug.