T'other night i went to a reading at Edge Hill - on the bill were Jenny Barrett and Michael Stewart.
I'll be quite honest, i'd not really read any of Stewart's work before. The main reason i was looking forward to going was to see Jenny read her Edge Hill Short Story Prize-winning entry 'The Last Day at Woolworths'. I've had to wait quite a long time to hear it (all relative, of course) but i can tell you it was even better than i thought - and i can vouch for the high quality of her other pieces.
This story was a well-balanced mix of humour, linguistic playfulness, intriguing characters, terminal pathos and more. We got a handout too. I don't think mentioning that it's a crossword will ruin the story at all. It's always nice when things are given a more literal extra dimension, especially when the original thing is already so vivid.
And as for Michael Stewart, well he was also fantastic. He read from his debut novel 'King of Crows' in the first half. I wouldn't have described the subject matter, 'a sort of coming of age story with a boy obsessed with ornithology', as 'my type of thing', but after his reading i can say the book is definitely my type of thing. The strangeness of it all is utterly compelling, from the descriptions of things and characters, right down to his presentation of language. In one of the scenes he read out, there were three teens taking ket in a stolen car. That makes it sound pretty grim, but he described trying to talk while under the influence as pushing heavy words up a hill - i think that's genius. The wittiness was phenomenal, the dialogue by turns so 'real' and yet so surreal. Truly compelling stuff.
The second half was purely Stewart, i.e. his new novel that's coming out. It's always exciting when an author trusts you with a work that is not yet out there, like Nicholas Royle did recently (still yet to write that one up!). The level of research that Mr Stewart put into the wrting was phenomenal. It's hard to apprecitate how much hard work may go into even a rough draft, but Mr Stewart is clearly not shy of a challenge and pulls it off well.
Then Q 'n' As. I'm not going to go into them all, just the most important one. I was going to ask it myself, but the fantastic Miss Bourton beat me to it (she asked in a much more concise way than i would have anyway LOL); basically, since Mr Stewart is so successful across many genres (plays, poetry, prose et cetera), how does he do it? He said that whatever the genre, writing is about character and story. Also he said he was interested in people, and really there's not much else to write about. Great answer, very pure.
All rounded off nicely by buying his book of poetry, Couples, which he signed (and i don't just ask anyone to sign my books ya know). Groovy!
Peace and love (and don't forget to check out Edge Hill's events page for things to go see).