Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Jon McGregor takes a week to get from Nottingham to Donegal...

......I mean, of course, his letter, postmarked 3rd September, which has just been delivered. Although Jon has been here too, you know. He doesn't just pluck these novels out of the air. He researches. He couldn't have written 'So Many Ways To Begin' without travelling the highways and byways of Donegal, and a fine job he made of it.

It is a book with a strong sense of place. As well as Donegal, he skilfully portrays Coventry and Aberdeen. The book also has a wide historical and social sweep, but it is the characters who dominate. In postcard no.3, I asked Jon how he maintained the balance between characters and relationship, and the portrayal of historical and social change.

He responded by emphasising that this was always going to be a domestic novel. The main character, David, is adopted. He works as a museum curator. We track his life as son, husband, and father.
'The bigger, historical themes/concepts seemed to nudge in later,' he writes.
I love this phrase, for the heart of the book is never overwhelmed by the ambition of its themes. As Jon concludes, '..the personal is the political; the domestic is the grand narrative.'
In 'So Many Ways To Begin', he nudges us gently into acknowledging the truth and depth of this.

Sincere thanks to Jon McGregor for his cooperation with this interview by post. There is one more postcard to go. A full version of the interview will be printed in North West Words magazine.

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