Nicola Monaghan's news, events and general thoughts about life and writing.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Alan looking dapper at 80...


I went to the Broadway Cinema for the Alan Sillitoe 80th birthday event last Thursday. It was 6th March, exactly halfway between Alan's birthday and mine. (Another Nottingham writer, Jon McGregor, is also a Pisces. Isn't that odd? I don't really believe in that stuff so it sometimes confuses me when I notice things like this.) It was also World Book Day and the release date for Starfishing.

It was the perfect way to celebrate, to listen to the great man of Nottingham literature talk about his life and writing. He was looking dapper, in a leather waistcoat and smart jacket and trousers. He had grown a beard, which took me by surprise and meant I almost didn't recognise him as he walked on stage. He was looking well too, with a spring in his step and a wave to the audience. The interviewer set him off asking how he got into writing and Alan didn't really need any help or questions after that. And it struck me again how brilliant it was that he still spoke proper Nottinnum.

And he had a lot to say. He reiterated the views he expressed to me at the Betty Trask Awards on the place of the editor, although he was somewhat more careful about how he expressed his thoughts on that in front of the large, fairly typically polite Broadway audience.

He talked us through the making of the movies, Saturday Night and Sunday morning and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, as well as describing his time in Majorca (with a j) after being pentioned off and aspects of his friendship with Robert Graves, who pointed him in the right direction when he told him to have another look at his stories about Nottingham. He discussed the censors back in the 1960s, and how he'd hated compromise. I get the impression that compromising, when it comes to his art, is something Mr Sillitoe is quite unprepared for. He was explicit about the imagery of Loneliness, how it's really about his experiences as a novelist and the borstal represents the censors. Although this wasn't exactly news to me (HELLO? My blog title?) it was still interesting to hear a writer talk so openly about his imagery. Most are guarded and somewhat mysterious about these things.

A friend of mine was reading Saturday Night and Sunday Morning recently, in preparation for this talk, and I borrowed it from her to have a peek at some of my favourite quotes. It struck me again just how perfect it is as a book. Just how simple, how well written, how there's not a spare word. It's amazing to think that he wrote this and insisted on it being published as it was, without being edited. It's clear to me from this piece of work that he is quite right; he does not need an editor. Being a lesser mortal, I think I do.

We were lucky enough to catch Alan down the bar afterwards, and Chad asked if he could take a photo of us together, which he was allowed to do. Look how I smile! I cannot help it. I am still starstruck by this man, whose words I answered questions on when I did 'O' level English. As Chad put it, he is a living legend.

I also got the chance to meet Alan's son at last, someone I've been in touch with by email and MySpace and so on for a while but never met in the flesh. Like his father, he is a gentleman of the first order.

Chuck Palahnuik (another of my heroes) says you shouldn't meet your heroes. I've ignored him too many times to count now and I beg to differ. Sometimes they are even better than you dare to hope. Sometimes, they are living legends and they'll pose for a picture with you.

Happy Birthday to us!

Nicola x


1 comment:

bebe said...

Yes it was a good night listening to AS. I have been a bit stuck on DHL so this was a real change for me. Actually I thought he looked a bit like DHL would have done at 80(the beard and the tweeds). Unfortunately I couldn't hear everything, despite being in the front row, so great to be able to read your piece.

By the look of the photo you obviously had a good birthday! Sometimes experiences like this are just meant to be; strangers meeting at crossroads, exchanging something special and such like, then carrying on their separate ways.

Just to prove I am serious about blogging!!!