Last night saw Manchester’s literary crowd gather at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation for an evening of conversation with novelist Adam Thirlwell. Adam is currently celebrating the release of his third novel, Lurid and Cute. The evening was an opportunity for all who attended to gain insight into Adam’s writing techniques and influences, as well as his philosophies on the complexities of narrative voice. Attendees, including staff and students from the Manchester Writing School, made up an engaged audience who listened intently in the packed house.
Before the evening got underway, Adam Thirlwell spoke to Humanity Hallows with advice for budding writers looking to get their work published.
“Ah man,” he said in typically urbane manner. “I was really lucky in that respect. I finished my first novel in 2003 at the age of 24, and found a publisher straight away … but the best advice I can give people is to finish that first novel. So many people have three-quarters finished, but if you can finish it, it puts you in that top one per-cent of writers.” Sitting opposite Adam was writer Nicholas Royle, who would be interviewing Adam for the evening. He told Humanity Hallows about his Nightjar Press publishing company, and their use of the chapbook format, which “is essentially a pamphlet. Each is an individual story; weird and uncanny, like good horror.”
When the audience had filed into the auditorium, James Draper, Manager of the Manchester Writing School, provided a brief introduction, before handing over to Nicholas Royle, novelist and Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at MMU to introduce,
The first of two student readers from the Creative Writing MA course at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). Louise Theodosiou, a psychiatrist who specialises in Adolescent Mental Health, read her poem, which attacked “incompetent politicians” making a “sanitised trajectory through our diseased NHS.” Following the audience’s enthusiastic reaction to her verse, she was followed by Robert Cutforth, who read from the first chapter of his debut novel. He told the dark tale of a dying man, seen through his son’s eyes. “Do coma years count towards the final total?” he asked poignantly, and continued “What could be more pointless than tennis?” The answer, “Golf,” came from Nicholas Royle, and was received with riotous laughter and applause from the audience.
Nicholas then introduced Adam Thirlwell, who gave an impassioned reading from Lurid and Cute. The reading brought to life a scene in the novel in which the hero and his best friend, ironically named Hero, attempt a hold-up in a nail salon. The two writers then began a discussion about Adam’s work. Adam commented that he seems to write things that are “especially embarrassing to read out loud,” but commented on the “tragedy” that he has “never written anything that can upset his mother.” Nicholas remarked that “for anybody who hasn’t read Adam’s books – that is an extraordinary admission.”
They discussed Adam’s use of narrative voice, and how the way the story is told in Adam’s books is often as important as the story itself. “I enjoy interruptions to the reader,” said Adam, “and to play with the idea of suspension of disbelief in the novel. This is why in one of my novels, you have the narrator inventing a new character before continuing the narrative as if nothing has happened.” Nicholas recognised what he called “free-jazz-like prose” in Adam’s novels, and commented that Adam’s writing had a “spontaneous, improvised quality.”
Following the talk, Adam spent time talking to audience members and signing copies of his books. Before they left the ABF, the audience stood around drinking and chatting about what had been a thought-provoking discussion.
Upcoming events at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation include a stage adaptation of A Clockwork Orange and a screening of The Exorcist.
Freddie likes playing bass and drinking all kinds of tea.