Mike McCormack Meet the Author


Mike McCormack

Jim Naughtie talks to Mike McCormack about his book Solar Bones, which is written in the form of one long sentence.


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Transcript


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need not fear, he will be setting out on a tour of the UK. Strong

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wires, I hope! There isn't a single full

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stop in Mike McCormack's The story is a monologue that reads

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like a string of thoughts, sometimes poetic, sometimes

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rough, often disturbing. And they tell us about one man

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in one hour, on one day, His hopes and his disappointments,

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his fears and loves. A character is revealed,

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and so is the world This is a adventurous storytelling

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by a master craftsman. It's quite a bold thing to do,

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to write a novel of more than 250 It is, but you write the books that

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present themselves to you, and that's the way the book,

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the way Solar Bones You mean in its content,

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in the thoughts that you were dealing with,

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and not as a conscious It just seemed that was the way

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you should write it down? Very early on in the composition

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of the book, I realised that the narrator was the sort

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of person he was, and that he would speak

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in a continuous rolling rhythm. And once I had got that in my mind,

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it became second nature. And it recalled in it one

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of the exercises I had set myself years ago as a writer,

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to come in every morning and sit down at my desk and write whatever

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it was that came into my head. And the only strictures I put

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on it was that it had to transition neatly from what I had done the day

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before and that it had And so when I realised the book

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was going to be written in a continuous ongoing rhythm,

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I recalled that exercise. There is a natural feeling, I think,

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most readers will have, of a kind It would be hard to think that

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you didn't have Joyce somewhere in your head when you were producing

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a book of this kind. People have spoken about the book

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as a stream-of-consciousness novel, It doesn't have that kind

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of telegraphic staccato rhythms that you associate

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with stream of consciousness. It's much more an attempt to write

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something continuous, However, as an Irish writer,

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I've always been conscious of the fact that our great writers

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are experimental writers, I've always admired their

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recklessness and courage, So I would like as a writer

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to think that you had a part of that yourself,

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so that was where I took my... And of course, you're writing not

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just about an individual whose thoughts are happy and sad

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and confused, and sometimes crystal clear, and whose

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emotions are laid bare. And you are writing about a feeling

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of a country coming out of, really, an economic catastrophe which has

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impacted on people's lives in a very direct way,

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so it's a very contemporary novel I didn't set out to write a novel

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of the crash, or post-crash. Basically, what I set out to do

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was to capture the mind and life of this one

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man, this engineer. And as an engineer,

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as a civil engineer, that puts him at a nexus of a whole

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series of forces, politics, economics, all sorts of social

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movements and everything like that. Even civic catastrophes,

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like contamination of water The allure for me about Marcus

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Conway is that he's an engineer, God gave us heaven and earth

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and then He hands it over to engineers, and engineers make

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the world, and I was interested in seeing this man, who has this

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complete involvement with the world So that was what I found

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attractive about him. Well, you talk about

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the engineering, you also dropped in God there,

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and of course the book unfolds on All Souls' Day,

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the idea that there are these souls It begins with the tolling

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of the Angelus bell, and that bell seems to toll right

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through the book. I mean, you talk of its rhythmic

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character and the way it rolls on, and I suppose the sound of that

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as a kind of call to prayer, it really goes right

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through the book from beginning The book is an hour

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long and it's suspended One is the divine marker at 12:00

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and the other is the temporal marker for the 1:00 news at 1:00,

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so the book is spanned between... It's an hour long but in

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that hour he gets... He's inundated with a cascade

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of memories of his whole life. He's a soul who's susceptible

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to that kind of thing. And he himself remarks about that

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hour in the middle of the day. He always found it a soft,

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strange hour, in which the morning's best energies are gone and it's too

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early to sit down for the dinner, and the 1:00 news hasn't happened

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yet, so it's betwixt and between, and it seems to be susceptible

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to people like him. There's a fatalism running

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through the book too, a sense that things aren't random,

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that they appear And he talks about putting one foot

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in front of the other We're doomed to go through this

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journey in a very deliberate Is a nobility in itself

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and a heroism in itself, The book is a hymn to the everyday

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in many senses, and it's a hymn to a world that he has put his faith

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in, not only has he built, I think the longer I've dwelt on it

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after I've written it, the more it has kind of revealed

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itself to me as a book about faith. He went looking for God

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at an early stage in his life, and God effectively gave him two

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fingers and told him to go away And he turned from God

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and he became an engineer. And as his son says,

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his son puts it, he says, "You turned from the cross

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and you took up the theodolite, You laid that on the

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world and that." So it's a book about faith

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and a book about the everyday. It's a hymn to engineers

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and engineering. You talk about the experimental

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tradition in so much Irish writing. And that sort of heartbeat

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in his dramatic prose is the kind The heartbeat and the idea

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of a pulse was very much a concern with me in the book,

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and I don't know whether I managed to capture it or not,

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but it was certainly one Of course, being steeped in Beckett

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as well, you assimilate these things by osmosis,

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and they become a part of your fabric as a writer,

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as an Irish writer. You talk about being

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an Irish writer. Do you ever find that it's a bit

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weighty and a bit imprisoning? I've always considered myself

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to be an Irish writer, whatever that means,

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but for me it meant tapping into that reckless and generous

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tradition of experiment that Our greatest writers

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were unusual, I think, in that our greatest writers,

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our greatest fiction writers are exclusively our

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experimental writers. Beckett and Joyce and Flann O'Brien,

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the father, son and holy ghost, And if you're talking

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about any other writers, you've lowered your eyesight,

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you've lowered your So I wanted to take my cue

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from their experimental tradition, and did it tentatively

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in Notes From A Coma, my prayer novel, but I think grabbed

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it a bit more two-handedly in Solar Mike McCormack, thank you very much

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for talking about Solar Bones. A decent enough day across most of

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the UK today. We have a bit of rain in the forecast a night, mostly

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across northern areas, and it has been raining in Northern Ireland,

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Scotland, the Lake

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