COLETTE PAUL, the new star from Glasgow Uni’s creative writing course, tells Brian Donaldson about men, melancholy and moving from short stories to novels.
ometimes when an artistic movement centred round one estahlishrnent happens. it can he down to pure luck or (left skill. The Brit.»\rt lot who poured t'rom Goldsmiths was one thing. and the Hacienda’s role in the Madchester scene is another.
But what can we make ot‘ the burgeoning success of
(ilasgow litiversity’s creative writing course'.’ Set tip in 1965. it has been chaired by the likes oi James Kelman and Alasdair (iray. spawning one Booker nominee (Rachel Seil‘l'ert) and one ()range l’ri/e contender (Anne Donovan) as well as top talents such as Louise Welsh and Zoe Strachan who are both now among the tutors.
This spring (or whatever you choose to call this weather). two more alumni have the fruits of their educational endeavours unleashed by major publishers. Laura Marney‘s .\'ir ll'oiii/i'i' / Til/(U (1 Drink arrives in June from Black Swan. while (‘olette Paul gets her short story collection. ll’lim'i'i'r You (house to Low. released by the good people at Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Withotit getting too parochial ahout it. it seems a wonder that these local talents weren‘t picked up hy any ol‘ the major Scottish houses. 'I received a letter from one puhlisher after I‘d made my deal saying that they didn’t want my stories anyway] 24-year-old (ilaswegian ('olette Paul tells me with a ‘stul'ti-them‘ chuckle in the kitchen of her parents‘ top Hoor ﬂat in Shawlands.
After setting the record straight ahout her non— relation to any ol‘ the Tattlotts (ilasgow l’auls (sport journalist Ian or hoards-treader Dorothy). she helieves that one thing will work against her exquisitely carved short story collection: just that: they're short stories. 'I hadn‘t even thought ahout publishing a hook ol~ short stories hecause people kept telling me that they don’t sell.~ recalls Paul. Her set deserve to.
‘()utstanding’ and ‘talented‘ are the claims on the hack of the hook. It‘s quite hard to argue. The titles
98 THE LIST ‘ 1 l.‘.:.
‘I HAVE MY MELANCHOLIC I ol' the men are HOW GOOD A WRITER YOU WOULD MAKE IF YOU WERE VERY CHEERFUL'
give away the ol‘ten sad feel of the hook: ‘We .-\re Broken Things’. ‘Here. This Tragedy" and. ironically. ‘l‘ni Happy. You’re Happy. We‘re All Happy”.
Though 'Kenny”. a tale of a young mother losing her
mind while having to cope with a hahy son. forced me to ptit the hook down for a lull two days. That‘s a compliment. hy the way. 'Well. I have my melancholic moments.‘ she admits. 'I don’t know how good a writer you would make it you were a very Ciic‘c‘l'iilll [)L‘I‘MHL.
The do/en tales are all told through a l'cmale perspective (Paul doiihts whether she's quite ready to write from the point (it a view of a man or. as seems l'ashionahle these days. an animal) and. to he hlunt. men don’t come out ol' them very well. Whether it‘s errant lathers or disloy‘ai lovers or the paedophile ecclesiast. there’s harely a decent chap to speak of. ‘.\'o. they .re l‘aii'ly ruhhish.~ she admits hel’ore rushing to claril‘y: 'But there wasn’t an ulterior motive as though I've had had experiences oi men: they’re all ol a type. though I think the women are of a type. too. I don't think many
particularly nasty. maybe some are a hit pretentious. but a lot of it is about unrequited love. so they‘re not exactly properly TUI‘IIICLT adults.‘
:\s Paul’s career threatens to form properly. she‘s taking on the next natural step for a short story writer: concocting a novel with l’ully developed characters and stttiT. ‘The ideal short story has a conclusion which is slightly open but also gives a sense of ending and that's what I’m linding quite dil‘licult with the novel. Before. it was like writing on a postage stamp and now it’s like someone has given me a wall: where do I start."
Whoever You Choose to Love is out on Thu 13 May, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £9.99.
Debut writers under the microscope This issue Adam MacOueen. Who he? Fresh-faced MacOueen arrives on the literary scene armed with that most essential of a scribe‘s accessories — a CV overflowing with career misfortunes. Like many Successful writers. he funded the graft in his garret with a series of jobs ranging from the sublime (answering the phones in the Vt/atchdog studio) to the ridiculous (packing r'nail-order baldness coresl.
His debut MacOueen has spent several years researching and writing an entertaining biography of late 19th century soap manufacturer and plrilar'itlrroprst William Lever. As well as cornering the market in soap in a global empire that stretched from the north of England via the Congo and the SOUih Pacific to the USA. Lever also dabbled in liberal politics and realised severat ambitious social experiments. including Port Sunlight, his worker's Utopia 0n the Mersey.
What the critics said Sandi Toksvrg raved: ‘A thorooghiy entertaining rummage thrOug‘n the lite and times of one of Britain's most eccentric t.)ti$rnessmen. it Will leave you sweet-smelling, and ready to stomi the history round of your local pub ouiz.‘
But it’s about soap! Don‘t let the prosaic—sowiding subject matter put you off; MacOueen's is an energetic. riveting account of one of the first multinationals. Levers errorrnoos and often contradictory character is fully realised through contemporary accounts of his manifold VUl‘iiterS. and the author's aifection for his subject is incredibly infectious.
First line test ‘However in yOu are. Rivrngton Pike is the sort of climb that rriakes yoo realise you're not as fit as you used to be.‘
I The King of Sunlight is out now,
published by Bantam. E 72.99. "was y t ’5 -"
Adam’s ribald about soap