Sunday, 23 June 2013
Christopher Priest in Charing Cross Road
To Blackwells in Charing Cross Road yesterday to hear Christopher Priest in discussion with Simon Ings. My personal favourites of his books (out of the ones I've read) are The Glamour, The Affirmation and his most well-known novel The Prestige (filmed of course by Christopher Nolan - with David Bowie as Nikola Tesla!). I've admired his work for its unusual and original subject matter and most of all for its beautifully clear and grammatically rigorous style. In the discussion he had some interesting points to make about science fiction: quite correctly, that once you get the bug in your teens it's impossible to ignore it, but that much of it is, with hindsight, terrible - the work of Heinlein and Asimov, for example, were described as 'shit' and 'a pile of bollocks' - can't really disagree with that. However, he singled out the Sixties New Wave and M. John Harrison as the writers to read - again I have to agree. Looks as if I need to read the first volume of Graham Greene's autobiography as well. At the end he kindly signed a copy of The Prestige for me and I gave him a copy of my latest book as I thought, as a fellow resident of Hastings, he would enjoy it. It appears that he did. His latest novel is The Adjacent, the principal subject of the talk.
On the opposite side of the spectrum from the art and craft of Christopher Priest, last week I read the novel Chemical Wedding which was one of the worst books I've ever had to force myself through (I did so because there's a connection in the first chapter with my latest book): very badly written, obviously a hastily adapted screenplay, incoherent and incomprehensible in places, Rizla-thin characterization, gobbets of quantum physics and pseudo science chucked in to impress but failing to do so and an even higher than average count of typos and word mangling and mismanagement. The final irony is that a proof reader is thanked in the acknowledgments (unlike the publisher of the song lyrics quoted). Now I shall just have to see the film with Simon Callow...