Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Graham Joyce

Graham Joyce, a winner of the O. Henry Award and multiple recipient of the British Fantasy Award, lives in Leicester, England, with his family. His books include How to Make Friends with Demons, Smoking Poppy, Indigo (a New York Times Notable Book), The Tooth Fairy (a Publishers Weekly Best Book), and Requiem, among others.

His latest novel is Some Kind of Fairy Tale.

About a month ago I asked the author what he was reading.  Joyce's reply:
I’ve usually got some fiction and some non-fiction on the go at any one time. Right now it is:

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury. When a great author dies the best tribute you can pay him or her is to go back and re-read their work. I first read this when I was a teenager and I wanted to see how it looks today. Bradbury was often thought as a science fiction writer but he wasn’t. He was a Fantasist. He was more interested in ideas than science. When people complained that his characters were on Mars in The Martian Chronicles without an explanation of how they could breathe in such an atmosphere his response was, “Don’t be ridiculous: it isn’t real, it’s a story.” I love that confidence. Human beings, not sciences, were the heroes of his stories. When you read – or re-read – Fahrenheit 451 you know deep down that this is an important book. It’s not about censorship, but how the media is controlled and how news is presented to us along with while we are doped with shallow entertainment. It seems more important today than when it was first published back in 1953.

Chavs by Owen Jones. Sometimes it is tricky for an American readership to get a handle on the British social class system, which is cemented, brutal, comical sometimes, deeply divisive and seemingly impervious to change. In fact we seem to be going backwards instead of forwards. Even great wealth won’t get you out of the class system. If you are British-born you can usually identify the “caste” to which a person belongs, with reasonable accuracy, before they even open their mouths. Once they’ve spoken up it’s a done deal (unless they are a really good con-man, and this has served the criminal fraternity). A word came into the British English language fairly recently – Chav - the definition of which no-one can agree but which is a common tool for rubbishing the tastes of people lower down the social order than you are. Not a fun read but an eye-opening one.

And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life by Charles Shields. Vonnegut is an iconic figure and certainly impressed me when I read him as a young man. This book reveals his darker side – his anxieties, his bitterness, his failings as a father and so on. It’s a well put together biography but none of these so-called “revelations” surprised me too much. Writers may be “icons” but they are rarely “saints” and are as deeply flawed as any human being; occasionally more so. Anyone who can’t see that a lot of suffering and malcontent goes into comedic writing has never met a comedian. So while it was fascinating to get the skinny on this great writer I wasn’t exactly astonished to see that his halo was made of a plaster. Oddly, almost perversely, I felt more sympathy for Vonnegut after reading rather than less.
Visit Graham Joyce's website.

See Graham Joyce's top ten fairy fictions.

The Page 69 Test: Some Kind of Fairy Tale.

--Marshal Zeringue