Friday, 18 April 2008

Scarlett Thomas


Fascinating. I write some dross about structure in my novels – or not in my novels and then I start reading The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas which I picked up at the opening of The Big Green Bookshop and have, funnily enough, never seen anywhere else. Why did I pick it up? It has black-stained page edges which makes it look different. Yes, I really am that easily hooked. Sad. But true.

Anyway, the point is that The End of Mr Y is fascinating in various ways. For a start, nobody else seems to have heard of it, though it could easily turn into a huge cult thing. Secondly, it’s based in Canterbury, or, if it’s not (the town’s name hasn’t been mentioned yet, but I’m only a quarter of the way through) there’s a town which shares Canterbury’s features to a spooky degree. It even begins with a bit of the university falling into a huge hole made by an early railway tunnel – this really happened to one of the University of Kent at Canterbury’s buildings.

So I went online to find out about Scarlett Thomas - who she is, why she’s setting her novels in Canterbury, etc to find that she’s got quite a lot to say about structuring the modern novel here.

She also has a Myspace page which kind of implies that she wishes she didn’t. In fact she seems ambivalent about a lot of stuff, as you can see here.

So, Scarlett Thomas, anybody want to tell me what the rest of her books are like and whether there is a growing cult out there? Or is the mysterious The End of Mr Y mysterious for a reason…

8 comments:

douglas said...

I have now realized how easy it is to commit murder without a conscience.
I wrote a lengthy discourse on today's topic in your wonderful Hawkins Bizarre Blog. { using the adjective wonderful may ensure that you read further ]
My discourse was mediocre at least with some wonderful verbiage eg heaven forfend, gravitational preference and quintessential ice-cream flavors.
I also included a discourse brilliantly written explaining why the reviewer that said Testament was perhaps a tad long at 600 pages was incorrect. My edition is 568 pages, so using this as a basis for my arguments then wrote my own review.
Much to my chagrin [ never been able to use that word prior to today ] Google/Blogger then decided to reject my password and delete all of my musings. I was not amused, hence my new found ability to commit murder sans conscience.
Good, I feel much better after my rant.
I will rewrite the review because I want it posted on Amazon.
By the way , when will the US edition be published ? And will you come over the village pond to visit to promote Testament ?
It is unlikely that I will see you, much as I would like to, because of the restraining order you are likely to issue.
douglas [ a Testament fan ]

Leigh Russell said...

Very mysterious... Let us know if the location is identifiable when you finish.

I set my books in a fictitious place based loosely on somewhere I know. Apparently I missed a trick. If I'd set them in a real place, local people might buy the book (to read about where they live??) But the beauty of it is, as it's all fictitious, I can't get any of the details wrong!!!

Alis said...

Douglas - computers are great until they're not, and I know how frustrating it is to write something you like only to find it chewed up electronically. But thanks very much for the nice comments on Testament - so far I know of no plans afoot to publish Testament in the USA though I'm sure the paperback version will be available via Amazon.com.
If any plans materialise to publish and publicise Testament in the United States, readers of this blog will be the first to know!
I look forward to reading your review on Amazon...

Alis said...

Hi Leigh. I agree about the advantages of setting your novels in a fictitious place - that's why Testament is set in a fictitious city. But I gather that the readers of crime fiction (with the exception of this particular reader of crime fic) like their stories set in real places. Did your editor have anything to say about the location of Cut Short?

Tim Stretton said...

I've never read--or indeed heard of--Scarlett Thomas.

I have bought "Year of Wonders" on your recommendation, though. Started it last night and it's brilliant! It so perfectly captures what a historical novel ought to be that it's got to be worth a future blog entry...

Anyone who thinks that historical novels need to use modern dialogue for immediacy and intelligibility should read this book before crawling into a hole and covering themselves with earth.

Aliya Whiteley said...

I have a weird connection to Scarlett Thomas. We were both born in 1974, and both have links with Devon. When I was first sending out 3 Things About Me Simon Trewin was interested, but eventually decided he couldn't represent me because I was so similar in style to Scarlett that it would be a clash of interest for him as her agent.

So for a while I thought she had the life I was meant to have. I was quite angry about it until MNW picked up the book.

I'm over it now...

Alis said...

Tim - really glad you liked Year of Wonders - it really is one of the best historical novels I've ever read.

Aliya - how weird is that? I have to tell you I'm struggling with the End of Mr Y and I'd be pretty pissed off if an agent had rejected 3 things in favour of it...

Neil George Ayres said...

Bit late to the party on this one, but Aliya also has another, previously unknown to her collection to Ms Thomas. I contacted Scarlett about the first issue of Fragment, a PDF magazine I edited for a while, which Aliya was also in.

Scarlett sent me a nice little Whiteley-esque story called Goldfish, but had to pull it as her agent--presumably Mr Trewin--managed to sell it for cold hard cash.

Scarlett had a reasonable high media profile as she was a member of the self-styled 'New Puritans', a group of writers also included Alex Garland (he of The Beach), supposedly inspired by Dogme films. Their manifesto can be found on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Puritans