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Glasgow: Borders, Thu 20 Apr.
The career to date of novelist Kazuo lshiguro can be divided neatly into two chapters. With his first three novels, the Nagasaki-born writer garnered adulation for his powerful storytelling and lucid, elegant prose. These works established lshiguro's unique sympathy for the frailties and motivations of his characters, his uncanny ability to get inside the heads of a diverse range of protagonists; a Japanese mother, an elderly man, an emotionally frozen English butler.
’My narrators are often small parts of myself,’ he explains. 'They're not like portraits, but impulses I feel in myself and I take them and build characters around them. I’m not an autobiographical writer in that I don’t write about myself or other people I know.’ This phase culminated in Booker Prize-winning The Remains Of The Day, whose film adaptation brought lshiguro's work to an even wider audience.
Having reached a pinnacle of popular success and critical favour, lshiguro then seemed to blow it all with 1995’s watershed The Unconsoled. Ostensibly the story of a musician who returns to give a concert in an unnamed European city, The Unconsoled alienated readers and perplexed sections of the press. The author appeared to have abandoned the more realistic plotting and narrative of his earlier novels in favour of a loose collage of perspectives composed of memories, dreams and hallucinations. In retrospect, though, lshiguro was slammed largely for not writing another Remains Of The Day.
He’s philosophical about the critical reaction to his fourth novel. ’It had a strange career, received some very bad reviews but it's been rehabilitated since then. It’s a very fickle thing, the surface climate around books. The real readers give the more substantial response and
Stephen Jones merges The Prisoner and Springfield in The Bad Book
‘My narrators are often small parts of myself,’ insists this former Glamis grousebeater
that can go on for decades. The Unconsoled may turn out to be a crucial turning point. I might have gone down the road of writing a lot of books like Remains, particularly after the success of the film.’
Freed from the pressures of expectation, lshiguro’s latest novel When We Were Orphans continues in this rich vein with the tale of a detective who returns to Shanghai to solve the mystery of his parents’ disappearance. While its structure and tone recall the 19305 village mysteries of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers (which lshiguro was reading at the novel's conception), the book explores familiar themes; the comforting deceit of memories, the importance of nostalgia for childhood innocence.
lshiguro's Glasgow appearance continues a life-long Scotophilia. His wife hails from Milngavie, he's been a Glamis grousebeater and had a formative spell as a Renfrew community worker. 'I really came across grassroots politics there. Though I'm not an overtly political writer that experience did form a solid political base.‘ (Allan Radcliffe)
a: When We Were Orphans is published by Faber priced f 76. 99,
Dungeness, the place where Derek Jarman used to live,' explains Jones. ’lt's very bleak, a nuclear landscape almost, and I wanted to create a COmbination of that and New England; somewhere between pretty and ugly, The premise for the book comes from the idea of a yOung boy trying to learn from his father’s ramblings' So, Mr JONES, I rest, tell us about your cthhood?
'Hal When ! read a book or listen to a song I don't really want to know too much ab0ut that person, I'd rather know about their imagination ' Rather than a tangent to the lTTUSlC, writing has been a passion for Jones since he started penning short stories at seventeen. 'l'm looking forward to seeing my book in Waterstone’s and Borders, the thrill of that.’
Perhaps even more thrilling than appearing on the National Lottery7 ‘lt
Stephen Jones The Bad Book (llle £7.99)
It isn't And the glib wiseacre who suggests otherwise risks an earful from the subject of Stephen lones' current hit single 'The F-Word'. The debut novella from that bloke in Babybird
who sang 'You're Gorgeous’ land the author knows he can probably never extricate himself from that particular straitiacketl is an eight-year-old’s quest for meaning Within the world of Standstill, a dystopia somewhere between Springfield and The Prisoner. 'About a year ago I went to
wasn’t necessarily something to be proud of but it was funny because you can’t actually mention the title of that song. So Lqu introduces us and she couldn't even say what it was called.’ It cOuld be F-You. iRodger Evansl
I The Bad Book is published on Mon 77Apr.
Putting debut novelists under the microscope. This issue: Maggie O’Farrell
Who she? Born in 1972, Maggie O'Farrell has resided in all four home nations. Her Scottish leg began when she was thirteen to be educated at North Berwick High School, leaVing at eighteen to study English at Cambridge, A career in Journalism began when she blagged her way into a computer magaZine in Hong Kong before returning to the UK for work with The Poetry SOCiety and Independent On Sunday where she rose to become Deputy Literary Editor She has now gone freelance.
Her debut It’s called After You ’d Gone and tells the tale of Alice Raikes and the twin emotions of love and hate which tear open her family as she lies in a coma after what may or may not have been a suiCide attempt. Largely set in North Berwick and London, the book was the SUbj€(.I ofa strongly contested auction, otherwise known as a publishing sci‘um, ReVIew's Victory was swiftly followed by several European buyers snapping the novel up.
Basically . Basically, it's the story of how the actions and deCisions made by one generation can affect those who come later, And no matter how hard you try and how long you talk, y0u are more likely to continue hiding emotions and secrets than reveal them. First line test 'The day she would try to kill herself, she realised winter was coming up.’
Dedicated ’To my mother for not being like Alice's'
What‘s next? She is Currently working on a second book a ghost story with the working title of Someone Else — and is due to start at Warwick University as writer-in-residence. The prospect of hanging out \VlIh Germaine Greer terrifies her
After You’d Gone is published by Review priced f 72. 99. See Books events.
Maggie O'Farrell : rim you ll guilt“
‘.3-—-27 Apr 2000 THE lIST103