We know him as an author, most famously for A Suitable Bay, a novel of love and marriage set in mid- century India. Yet as Vikram Seth points out, he is also a poet. Seven of his ten books are verse. There are the three books of poems, a libretto, a book of animal fables, a translation of 8th century Chinese poetry and The Golden Gate: A Novel In Verse. 'Although the public knows me as a novelist, in fact most of my books are poetry,’ the former Booker winner states.
Seth is a man who has long relished language. Its rhythm and rhyme, its pulsing movement. As a child growing up in India, Seth's grandmother used to recite poetry in Hindi and English to him. 'Some of it was rather sentimental but, at any rate, it got my ear attuned to rhyme and meter and the careful yet spirited use of language. So I loved poetry even before I loved prose.‘
For Seth, the book that acted as a bridge between poetry and prose was The Golden Gate. Written in 1986 entirely in verse, it tells the story of a lovelorn young man in search of pleasure in California's Silicone Valley. 'Once I'd written it. I realised I was a novelist. he admits. ’I had a novel under my belt although it was a very peculiar sort.
Poetry emotion: Vikram Seth
Poetry had led me to it and I actually realised I had the stamina to write novels, so I wrote one more. A rather long one.’ This was A Suitable Boy which lodged Seth’s name in the mind of the British nation.
A Suitable Boy begins in 1950 and spans a period of eighteen months, though you have to suspect that. at 1,349 pages, the writing took a bit longer. Taking in the lives of four families, what came through strongest was the emergence of a powerful and assured voice. Oddly anachronistic, some felt it was a triumph of form over
Shorter but no less intense than A Suitable Boy, it allows Seth to chart the ebb and flow of love and happiness among a group of friends living in present- day Britain. As to future writing, Seth doesn't know if poetry or prose will come next. ’I don't have the least idea. I am decompressing at the moment,’ he says. 'Poetry is not a vastly popular thing but it should have the same good qualities as prose and share its clarity and forcefulness. It should not send people scuttling to cribs and dictionaries and critical notes. It should make
content but it set a standard the author had to emulate. Next came his most recent novel, An Equal Music.
people feel and think.’ (Susanna Beaumont) a For details, see Hit list, right.
Chemical sister: Annie Nightingale
78 THE LIST 19-26 Aug 1999
SPIEGELNIGHTS Annie Nightingale
She hung out with The Beatles, became pals with Scott Walker and knew limi Hendrix well enough to describe him as a 'model of decorum.’ But did Annie Nightingale ever have to sit next to the Hairy Cornflake at the infamous 805 Radio 1 Christmas Parties?
'You had to wear paper hats in September,‘ she says. 'I hate paper hats! As if the listener would believe that all the 015 spent Christmas day together. Mind you, Tim Westwood was on the mic last year going: "JOHN PEEL IS IN THE HOUSE!" It was the first one that was really good fun.’
In the earliest days of Radio 1, when she was the only female presenter,
sexism was blatant. 'One had to break the barriers down and it took a long, long time. And how many club DJs do you know who are female? It’s as bad as ever, all over again. There’s no Chemical Sisters!‘
From 605 ‘dolly bird’ status through the era of Smashy ’n’ Nicey to her current weekend chill-out show, Annie Nightingale has a million stories to tell. Many are in her book, Wicked Speed, but more will be aired at her 'lit rave’.
'There's going to be lighting, effects, visuals, music and then it turns into a chat show. Simon Fanshawe is going to do that bit and he will not hold back in taking the piss, so I hope people can have something to look at and listen to and have a good laugh.’ (Rodger Evans)
I For details, see Hit list, right.
I I I1 III I ﬁt \
A heavenly seven for your diary. Annie Nightingale See preview, left. Annie Nightingale (Spiege/nights) Spiegeltent, 25 Aug, 9pm, £8 (£6). See Freeloaders, page 77. George P. Pelecanos Not only does Pelecanos write painfully hip, genre-bending crime novels, his role as independent film producer has seen him get his hands on the work of the Coen Brothers. See feature, page 22. George P. Pelecanos (Lunchtime Reading) Spiegeltent, 25 Aug. 7pm, £6 (£4).
Will Self And Andrew O’Hagan Celebrity meets the cerebral as BritLit’s enfant terrible goes head to head with the Daily Telegraph’s recently ordained film critic. See preview on following pages. Will Self And Andrew O'Hagan On Urban Landscape In Fiction (Architecture) Gap Studio Theatre, 23 Aug, 5.30pm, £7 (£5).
Sir Robin Day Famed as much for his crazy bow-ties as his penetrating interviewing technique, Sir Robin will be witticising and anecdoting til the early cows come home. Sir Robin Day (Meet The Author) Post Office Theatre, 20 Aug, 71.30am, £5 (£4).
Annie Proulx Quite simply one of the world’s finest authors, Proulx is a Pulitzer-prize winner and chronicler extraordinaire of both character and landscape. See preview on following pages. Annie Proulx (Meet The Author) Post Office Theatre, 22 Aug, 77.30am, £6 (£4).
Steve Jones If you like your science popular, Mr Jones' refreshing take on Darwinism should have you reaching for your old schoolbooks. Steve Jones (Science) Post Ofﬁce Theatre, 24 Aug, 5pm, £7 (£5). Vikram Seth See preview, left. Vikram Seth (Fiction) Post Ofﬁce Theatre, 21 Aug, 5pm, £7 (£5); Vikram Seth (Performance Poetry) Spiegeltent, 21 Aug. 8pm, £7 (£5).