Saturday, April 17, 2010

Emirates Airlines Literary Festival - Martin Amis and A Wonderful Prize plus Travel Troubles

As is always - these are just my notes and a totally flawed - please forgive the many mistakes

Martin Amis in Conversation with Paul Blezzard

Paul opened with – language was closest to Martin’s heart and when did it begin?

M- it began in adolescence and he hopes the ‘book’ will never disappear. He was very self aware and articulate and during adolescence is when you begin conversations with self in a notebook, diary…we commune with ourselves and the book is a perfect self companion.

Writers never really grow out of the phase – the process of self communing – all writers are adolescents to a certain extent.

His early works were hopeless.

PB – Writers and age?

M- he feels that the talent will die out before the body and he can’t find many exceptions to the rule. He pointed out the Shakespeare and Austin died young. There is the haunting spectacle where different things go wrong with age – Updike…his ear went. Nabokov …loses his moral compass with his signature joke of a 12 year old girl

Exquisite tragedies – to live with words and to be deserted by them yet he will go on as long as he can – not giving up

He quoted Cheever – everything I read is not short enough

500 page novel is very different from the shorter one – the mass is more difficult to master

P. Roth quoted – harder to keep the whole mass in your mind

Writing is connected to Eros

The tactic of writing the short he feels is fine

not to lose the musicality- the paragraph that comes out of nowhere – decreases with age but you gain craft – early book deficit in expertise.

PB - Craft is the greatest pleasure?

M- no, it’s more general than that.

Quoted Saul Bellow – see the universal in the particular

He said the rest of us work the other way. Life is dead –a huge dead novel – it is not faithful to our experience – artifice gives it life – mirror experiences don’t breathe life into a novel – real life…nothing happens

P Roth – write fiction about what didn’t happen or what might have happen

It is a very English book – very diffident

When in Italy he kept feeling like he was in an oil painting

Wring is mysterious – only a writer knows how mysterious

Decide is never a groping process

About is wrong

Around is better

Subconscious does a lot of work for you

There aren’t many sad things about being a novelist, but you have to spend time over dead things

Writer’s block is when the subconscious is switched off

PB – Can writing be taught?

Quoted Nabokov – there is only one school of writing and that is talent.. but then went on to say you can teach craft and habits. His 19 year old self would have loved to chat to his 60 year self

He has learned to walk away when he comes across the slightest impediment – he reads

Writing is a physical business not just the mind – the body and the mind combined in a way

He described a writers life –


-living – not very relevant but necessary but does provide inspiration – brith, death...

-reading – fuel – influence/stealing – his are Nabakov and S. Bellow

The pleasures of writing and reading are the same – solving difficulties – readers create as well as writers – writers invite the reader to create the character in their heads...osmotic ..guest/host

He was asked how many words a day? Some days none, but never a week without – 500 words of fiction takes a lot of thinking time.

..Darker aspects of human nature – is he an optimists or a pessimist? All writers are lovers of life and the urge to put it down is a loving one

How does he physically write? The mechanics of writing...ritualized...talisman...he writes in long hand however the computer is suited to writers as writers need to insert. He writes in long hand – a flow of ink like the flow of love.

Asked about rejection...the treadmill of rejection having your child criticized and that’s why he doesn’t admit to a’s like your child and their is nothing you can do about it

What’s he working on now? He’s just finishing one and knows the next...senility and dementia have not got him yet...

So today has been a bit up and down to say the least - the volcanic ash is causing some serious nail biting here and a possible melt down of my complex travel arrangements. I am due to fly to the UK with dd on Monday so that she can make her class French trip which leaves by coach and ferry early on Tuesday each housr clicks past this is looking less and less likely. It will also mean i will miss out on The London Book Fair and the subsequent tweetup....We also still have ds2 here and he is due to fly on Tuesday...

However today is not all bad news because the wonderful Caroline Smailes was running a competition on her blog which I won! So soon I will be or more correctly one of children will the proud owner of a signed copy of Jon Mayhew's new book Mortlock!(‘Mortlock’s’ dark and alternative Victorian world is unforgiving as it pulls you into its grasp, snagging hold and refusing to let go until it has disgorged its gruesome secrets.) So today is good and let's hope my luck continues to success with flights.


Phillipa said...

Liz, thank you for the fascinating insight into Nartin Amis's 'process' and huge huge hugs on the travel arrangements - to you and everyone affected. P x

Chris Stovell said...

Great notes (thank you - again), but what a pain that pesky ash is being.

liz fenwick said...

Thanks Phillipa...

liz fenwick said...

Chris the ash is a pain and I feel bad about dd missing her French trip but things could be worse.