Monday, October 20, 2008

Nicola Barker

Nicola Barker is one of Britain's most original and exciting literary talents. She is the author of two short-story collections: Love Your Enemies [winner of the David Higham Prize and the Macmillan Silver Pen Award] and Heading Inland [winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize]. Her novels include Reversed Forecast, Small Holdings, Wide Open Behindlings, Clear, which was long-listed for the 2005 Booker Prize, and Darkmans. Her work is translated into twenty languages, and in 2000, she won the IMPAC Award for Wide Open. In 2003, Nicola Barker was named a Granta Best of British Novelist.

From a Q & A about Clear at her publisher's website:

How close to the David Blaine spectacle were you? Were you living near the exhibit at the time, or were you influenced by the media blitz covering it?

I was very close to it. I live in a flat just over the other side of Tower Bridge, on the river. When I found out that Blaine was coming to my neighborhood to starve himself, I thought it was the most ridiculous idea I'd ever come across. I just ignored the whole thing. I wasn't interested. But after he'd been there for about a week, my curiosity got the better of me. I used to take my two dogs out running in the morning — very early — and so changed my usual route to cross the bridge and have a quick look at him. As soon as I arrived on site I was hooked. From there on in I went to see him most days. I was initially delighted (and amused) by the impact Blaine was having on my local environment, but then things started to turn nasty and it grew increasingly difficult — as a local — not to feel implicated in the whole thing. Even responsible. The media coverage was almost entirely superficial and violently anti-Blaine. It was unbelievably inflammatory. I ended up writing a letter to The Guardian in response to a repugnant column by a journalist who felt it was funny to actively encourage people to attack Blaine. Ironically, I'd recently published a novel (Behindlings) which was entirely about the nature of charisma. When I went to see Blaine it was as if the novel had split open and come to life. It was a very strange feeling. All of these factors made me sit down (a week before the fast ended) and start writing. The book took only three months to complete. I wanted it to be a snapshot of a particular moment. I wanted to try and make the people who derided Blaine sit back and think — to analyze why it was that he made them feel so angry and so threatened.
Read the complete Q & A.

The Page 99 Test: Nicola Barker's Darkmans.

--Marshal Zeringue