Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gavin James Bower interview: 'Big Society? Big fuck off and die'

Gavin James Bower
Gavin James Bower is back! Britain's best-looking male novelist, former runway supermodel and strategic tweeter has survived the forbidding hell of first novel acclaim (Dazed & Aroused - see labels for more) and just got on with the second. Made In Britain is a very different kind of fiction, urban grungy to the first's mannequin glam, which gets down with the post-industrial 'feral underclass' kids - the kind of hoodie urban cunties who back in August gave great copy by tearing down our cities in order to return animal sentience to certain vegetative newspaper columnists. As marketing ploy for Made In Britain, the riots should surely win Gavin's publishers Quartet a Campaign award for product placement prescience. Naturally, Madame Arcati was most keen to catch up with a man whose literary antennae miss no societal nook.....

Gavin, poppet. Such a joy to be interviewing you again! I have forgiven you for not attending Duncan Fallowell’s launch party for How To Disappear as my gossip-spy. I hear you went shopping instead. What did you buy?

GJB: I really should have gone. My shopping partner would attest to that. I spent a good hour looking at plaid flannel shirts, only to discover that every other man in London has at some point in the last twelve months done exactly the same. I've since ceremonially set fire to the bastard. (The shirt - not my shopping partner.)

Now, it’s been about two years since you published Dazed & Aroused and your new novel Made In Britain is just out - will it make me dilate the way your debut novel did?

GJB: I'd like nothing more. In fact, when my publisher and I plotted world takeover earlier this year, atop our white board of primary action items was 'Dilate Madame'. To carry on the conceit, it's a bit of a stretch from my first dip, the length feels just right - and, even though it's bittersweet, there is something of a happy ending. 

I gather - because I’ve not read it yet (except for a few pages on Amazon) - that Made In Britain dwells on the so-called teenage ‘feral underclass’ of Burnley - their drugs, dreams, dicks, etc. The August city riots couldn’t have been timed better! (Not that I’m saying….) Did you will the rioters on from your TV sofa? And while we’re on the subject, I think a few of the judges and magistrates got rather carried away with themselves, sending convicts off to the colonies and what have you - middle-aged baby-boomers with fat arses are quite brutal, aren’t they?

GJB: People on Twitter - middle class pseudo-journalists with nothing better to do than spray textual diarrhoea all over their iPhones - cheered these riots on, certainly, while the government couldn't get enough. Big Society? Big fuck off and die. Unaccountable though the powers that be may feel, the riots sharpened the discourse about the betrayal of former industrial towns and the working class, which is no bad thing - not just for my book, but for where I'm from and the people left behind.

How would you characterise the present coalition government of Old Etonians and multi-millionaires? Do they cause you to dilate?

GJB: They cause me to constrict; indeed, I've a sort of exacerbated constipation. I'm in rectal retrograde, Madame! The powerlessness that's characterised politics for a decade is starting to dissipate, while power's simultaneously becoming more concentrated - in, and at the hands of, the reactive and the reactionary. There's a perennial sense of déjà vu with capitalism - but nothing's inevitable, one way or the other.

Drugs appear to be a major contributory cause of social and psychic defeat in your novel. What’s to be done about urban chemical romances? And what do you do when you’re offered a line of coke at a party?

GJB: I needed a 'cool consultant' for my first novel, to help with the pills, lines and, even, fags (not that kind). I'm still the same 'clean cut lad' who was told by a mother of a friend at school, after I'd egged her house, that he's 'poison inside'.

I can’t imagine that you, a former celebrated runway model and feted novelist from a northern town, were ever feral or an underclass trog - perhaps you observed your peers from the sidelines and made notes….?

GJB: I needed to leave my home town and get distance from it before I wrote about growing up. I ended up taking ten years - from the point at which I started the book, to the age I was writing about. I went to a state comp, I didn't live far from where the riots were - and I did all the things normal working class kids do (play on the field, smash up derelict buildings, kick a football about when the factory finished). My experience of feeling awkward, like I didn't fit in - that's in all three characters. But the abuse, the drugs, the violence - that's all taken from somewhere else, albeit very close to home. Just not my home.

Gavin in a former life
Made In Britain has already received a very favourable reception. Sophie Waugh, the well known anarchist, gave it a rave in the Guardian, and I see my darling newspaper columnist Suzanne Moore has thrown a critical bouquet. How would you compare the reviews of the new book with those of Dazed &amp Aroused? Any cunt-critics we need to sort out?

GJB: I've had some criticisms - about the fine line the book treads between 'grown up' and YA, and about the leap in subject-matter - but yes so far the reaction's been good. It's a more ambitious book - but also more vulnerable to criticism. The first was premise and style, and a bit take it or leave it. This one's plot and good old fashioned tragedy. The stories and voices have to stand up. There'll always be cunt-critics, though I'm savvy to when it's straight criticism and when it's just personal.

Would you like Made In Britain to be made into a movie? If so, who should be director? Not Ken Loach I hope.

GJB: One criticism I had of the book early on was also a compliment; namely, that the book was very cinematic. So yes, I'd like to see that. Billy Walsh could direct - if he were a real person. Otherwise someone with a bigger chip on his shoulder than mine. Someone who gives a shit about the real consequences of post-industrialisation. Someone who can capture what it is that gives us our identity - as a town, and as a class. 'The next Vincent Gallo' would do, especially as he's retired.

Now Gavin, this wouldn’t be a Madame Arcati interview if we didn’t delve a little into your amatory life department. How many times have you had sex in the period between the two novels and with how many partners?

GJB: I had one girlfriend between the publication of Dazed and this summer. But now les paris sont ouverts.

And just so it’s on the record, I take it that the photograph that came in to my possession, of the headless man with a rather extravagant erection, is not you. Be honest, now.

GJB: You'd almost certainly be correct. Though I'd like nothing more to have my erection described as 'extravagant'. Well, after making Madame dilate.

I see you’re a Scorpio -  said to be unforgiving, among other things. Do you regard astrology and related divinatory practices as mumbo-jumbo? Put another way, how many drug-addicted astrologers and psychics do you know?

GJB: I value loyalty and am unforgiving, that's true. It's a one-strike policy with me. I lack faith, so it's hard for me to accept anything 'divinatory'. I only know you, but I'm rather glad to say so.

And finally, Gavin. Are you working on a third novel? If so, tell us more.

Lady Gaga or Claude Cahun,
 born 1894 (a Scorpio)? GJB is
writing about one or other
GJB: Book three's a non-fiction biography/polemic for Zero Books, on the surrealist artist Claude Cahun. Google her immediately, fall in love and, if you're anything like me, shave your head to get into character.

Gavin! Thank you so much for your time. And good luck with Made In Britain.

GJB: xxxx 

Made In Britain: To read an excerpt and buy a copy click here


Anonymous said...

Alan Silitoe comes to mind,

The Duchess said...

Get a woom you two tarts

Madame Arcati said...

A 'woom'? With a view?

Jacqui said...

Claude Cahun is new to me and I agree with the Lady Gaga comparison. Cahun looks like Gaga in the Alejandro video.