Chapter Five: Making Opposites Fit Together…
… in which I once again find myself in Finsbury Park to force Adam Marek to not only have a conversation with me, but to do so in a noisy Turkish café and allow me to record it. Topics include: the short story, being an unpublished author, and the pleasures of copywriting for the RSPB.
As usual, you can download this episode from iTunes.[audio http://bookish.jellycast.com/files/audio/marek%20complete.MP3]
Who is Adam?
The first thing that made me want to read Adam Marek‘s book was the titles of the stories it contained. The collection itself is titled Instruction Manual For Swallowing and has a cover which suggests it might be just that: a manual. The titles themselves – ‘The 40-Litre Monkey’, ‘Testicular Cancer vs. The Behemoth’, ‘A Gilbert And George Talibanimation’ – more like titles for Turner Prize entrants than works of fiction, hint towards the esoteric and abstract qualities which you don’t often see in modern British writing, but which I go to great lengths to seek out. How could I resist?
The title of the collection itself sums up its content. People, objects and scenarios as banal and ordinary as you could ever wish to meet find themselves inexplicably situated in unfamiliar worlds, more often than not worlds of dysfunctional or hyper-functional of flesh. If that all sounds a little highfalutin, I should say that, aside from satisfying my own personal weirdo book-tastes, Adam’s book also manages to be consistently very funny and very poignant.
Anyway, when I met him he seemed disconcertingly normal and well-adjusted (a pattern which has emerged over the course of my meetings in this podcast – the odder the fiction, it seems, the more dauntingly normal the author), maybe even a little bemused by the fact that someone had called him out to ask him about his job for a couple of hours.
Robert Aickman – my favourite writer (at the moment), his short fiction bridges the gap between the traditional ghost stories of MR James and the odder, more elliptical works of the likes of Kafka or Robert Walser.
Haruki Murukami – Japan’s literary superstar whose books are a (broadly) happy marriage of the informal writing style ordinarily found in modern American fiction with the more obtuse, open-ended formal trappings Kafka.
Will Self – gravel-throated public intellectual and high priest of literary sarcasm, he’s also a master of the modern weird story.
William Burroughs – shot his wife, became a heroin addict, wrote some very confusing books.
This is the final episode in what I’ve rather grandly taken to calling ‘series one’. Hopefully, Bookish will be back in a few months. I’ve already asked a few writers if they’d like to do an episode and, thus far, have had time-permitting yeses in response.
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