Show 048: December 2011

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Many people contact me about how to get their poetry published. I always direct them to the Poetry Society website which has a pretty comprehensive list of current competitions for all ages, ranging from the Bridport, to Foyle’s Young Writers and the National Poetry Competition. Many of the competitions are over for this year but if you have poems , or are about to write them, there are many to go at for next year.

I am always interested in my responses to films made about books; sometimes reluctant to try a film of a favourite book. This week I watched a fabulous film ‘Submarine’ directed by Richard Ayaode based on a novel by Joe Dunthorne It has had the completely unexpected defect of making me want to chase up and read the novel.

Book review

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
It may seem odd to review this book which won the Booker last year. For such an acclaimed book it seems to divide people between those who love it and those who loathe it. Based around the lives of three men, two Jewish guys and their friend Treslove, who wishes he was a Jew. The Jewish Chronicle identified themes to do with anguish of middle-aged men, as well as dealing with how Jews interrogate their relationship with Israel. Full of mordant Jewish humour, it seems to me to be about all these things and also about male friendship and how crap men are at making and maintaining friends. The book is a journey through past relationships, failed marriages and lost children.

The Amazon reviews are interesting, with a handful of five start reviews and about forty one star, with some reviewers saying that it is the worst book they have ever read . I liked being in the companion of the books. But my Readers Group, twelve very bright women, really disliked it, and came to the conclusion that it is a Bloke’s Book.


Other People's Money cover
Here follows a short, edited extract from my interview with prize-winning novelist Justin Cartwright.

Other People’s Money is a sort of State of the Nation novel looking at the ethics of banking, and at society in general. I have my character Artair standing for Art, so I’m saying that while finance is terribly important there are others things that are important too. Artait is a bit ludicrous but he believes in the transformative nature of art, as I do. It sounds pretentious and could probably put people off, but art looks at things and increases our understanding of the world we live in. If you talk to people in Ireland they define themselves in terms of novelists like Joyce and Yeats and the literature.

I write a novel about every two and a bit years and I just love getting up every day and making up things. it feels a real privilege

As a South African originally I’ve elided gently into being an English novelist. I didn’t consciously decide, but I avoided apartheid as a subject in the style of Gordimer or Brink, because I wanted to be more out in the world than that.

My book looks at moral questions at the heart of banking, uncontrollable by the authorities. For the The City of London, with the deregulation, making money was an end in itself. They believed that the markets were always right and you didn’t need regulation. The people who went into banking of the eighties became very rich for doing very little. High Altitude bankers began to think that they deserved their riches. As Fleur said of the family she married into,’ They love art and buy art, but they don’t make art.’

I think when you’re quite young you’re taken with contemporary fiction, so I loved Bellow, Roth and Updike. The writer who influenced me most was Saul Bellow.

I’m going to South Africa soon to a small town where I can have peace and quiet. Occasionally you need to stop doing things and sit down and look at a piece of paper.

Poem of the Month

Read this month’s poem, You were there always.