Award winning novelist, short story writer, and Birmingham literary royalty Jim Crace entertained a cosy collection of eager readers and writers at The School of Art in Birmingham, UK. Organised by acclaimed Birmingham based writer Charlie Hill in support of Shelter (a UK homeless charity). The event was a rare opportunity to meet one of the true greats among the authors that have come out of Birmingham.
It’s hard not to feel that something of significance is going to happen whenever I climb the steps of the Grade 1 listed School of Art – its Victorian Gothic facade never ceases to make an impression. Arriving into the vibrant energy of a night in the city centre, I came past the old teds talking about Morrissey outside Snow Hill, the suits quaffing champagne on Colmore Row, their ties yet to be loosened, and hung a right to take in the old Birmingham and Midland Eye Hospital (now Hotel du Vin) another red brick Victorian delight complete with granite pillars and the original name plaque.
Rearranged several times because of you know what... Crace X Rose was worth the wait as Crace spoke eloquently and with total generosity of spirit, sharing a previously unseen passage from his forthcoming book, eden (Pan MacMillan, 2022) and fielding questions from OL favourite C.D. Rose (The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure, Who’s Who When Everyone Is Someone Else and The Blind Accordionist Penguin Random House), whose own writing Crace obviously admired. The trust between interviewer and interviewee was soon apparent as C.D. Rose listened intently and asked questions which clearly got Crace thinking. So, the audience felt confident to relax and enjoy an hour or so of reflection, chat, and a bit of banter.
The joy of listening to Jim Crace, is the journey that he takes you on as he answers – his thoughtful and humorous story tales sailing off down rivers of thought and yet, returning. He speaks with the confidence of someone who has written 13 (maybe 14?) novels and who has twice been nominated for the Booker not to mention winning the Whitbread Prize, the Dublin Literary award and countless others.
He spoke of the complicated relationships of writers to their work – the necessity of hating your written work in order to make it as good as it can be. He talked about writing the book that you want to write – about the appeal of Christian tropes to atheists, and about the meaning of home. He also offered a fascinating insight into the way he ‘triangulated’ the plot for eden as he drove home to the Midlands from Edinburgh. A thoughtful and political writer whose novels span real and imagined places and times, there is no doubt that Crace knows his craft inside out. And though he now resides in Worcestershire, he spoke with fondness of his time in Birmingham – a city of endless change. Let’s hope we can coax him back again soon.
Jim Crace at Pan/McMillan
More about C.D. Rose
Charlie Hill online
Concrete - Outsideleft's free to enter short story competition, deadline May 31st, 2022 enter here
Meave Haughey is a short story writer based in Birmingham. Recent stories have been published in Comma Press’s The New Abject, and Forecast: New Writing from Birmingham, Doestoevsky Wannabe’s Love Bites: Fiction Inspired by Pete Shelley and Buzzcocks and in Birmingham, from the Doestoevsky Wannabe Cities series. Meave's story The Reservoir featured in The Best of British Short Stories 2021 compiled by Salt Press.
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