Jim Crace

“Inimitably excellent, Jim Crace stands on his own ground
among living English novelists...”

– Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

 

'A writer of hallucinatory skill'
John Updike

 

[Website contact: Rafaelo Candori

rcandori@outlook.com ] 

 

 

Latest:

 

new Jim Crace novel,

The Melody,

to be published in UK by Picador

on February 8th 2018

and in USA by Nan Talese during Fall !

 

new deluxe edition of Continent

now available from Ecco (Harper Collins, USA)

 

editions of The Melody

have been licensed by Susanna Lea Associates

to several countries including

De Geus (Holland)

Rivages (France)

Hamish Hamilton (Canada)

 

A few forthcoming events:

 

Monday 11th September 2017

Booksellers’ event with Jim Crace

At Waterstones Birmingham

(no details yet available)

 

October 4th to 8th

Jim Crace appears at

International Festival of Literature

in Iasi, Romania.

Other guests include

Jonathan Coe, Nurruddin Farah,

and Nobel Prize winners Gao Xingjian

and Svetlana Alexievich

 

Sunday 15th October

“Backwards Dinner” (from The Devil’s Larder)

with Jim Crace

at the Wilderness Restaurant in Birmingham,

hosted by Birmingham Literature Festival.

 

 

 

 

 

August 2017

 

In their Summer Double Issue, the British progressive magazine, New Statesman, published an article titled “Power with a Plot: In uncertain times, fiction can be better at politics than politicians. Here NS friends and contributors share the novels that make sense of the world.” Here is Jim Crace’s submission:

 

“I was brought up in a socialist household. Nearly all our books were of the left. Many of them influenced what I have taken as gospel ever since, especially -of course- The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, that sentimental clarion call to “organise”.  But the work of fiction that affected me the most politically and still bears rereading for the boost of bloody-mindedness it provides was one I bought myself in about 1960 when I had just joined the Labour Party, was active in various peace movements and was discovering, as a timid teenager, the thrill of street demonstrations. It was Alan Sillitoe’s The Loneliness of the Long-distance Runner, a long short story and subsequently a film which rejoices in the power of the individual rather than the crowd.  Sillitoe’s borstal boy protagonist lands an insolent, gleeful blow on the chins of his masters by refusing to excel. His politics are too spiteful, sullen and unbending, perhaps - but there is a dignity and glory to be celebrated, I think, in finding triumph in defeat and, therefore, never being cowed.”

 

Other novels nominated by novelists included All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (Stephen King), The Beautiful Mrs Seidenman by Andrzej Szczypiorski (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), The History of Jonathan Wild by Henry Fielding (Jonathan Coe), The Book of Daniel by E.L. Doctorow (Ali Smith), The Year of the French by Thomas Flanagan (Colm Toibin), The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle (Lionel Shriver) and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (A. L. Kennedy.)  Yes, it was a list of baffling variety.

 

 

 

July 2017

 

Many thanks to the various journalists, academics and readers who have contacted http://www.jim-crace.com/ since Andrew Hewitt moved on to Planet Hardy. Here (with the permission of both participants) is an exchange of emails between Jim Crace and a new writer seeking advice:

 

(To Jim)

Hello and I hope you are well. I am hoping you may be able to pass on this message to Jim Crace. I am a fan of his work and, as an unpublished writer struggling to secure an agent for my manuscript, I would dearly value some advice.

 

I've queried a lot of agents and had some positive responses regarding my writing ability and synopsis, however the consensus appears to be that in the current publishing climate my novel isn't commercial enough to get through.

 

I'd love to send Jim a short synopsis and the opening pages and ask for his advice on who best to approach.

 

(From Jim)

Thanks for making contact. I am very familiar with your situation as trying to find an agent can be a stumbling block for all new writers. I can’t give you much help with that as I have been with my own agent, David Godwin, since 1980 and so have no contacts elsewhere. I don’t hang out on the book scene. But I can give some general advice.

Please don’t mistake what I have to say as being pessimistic or despairing. It just has to be faced that at least nine out of ten novels that are completed never get published. If being published wasn’t such a rare achievement we wouldn’t desire it so much. What is important is to judge your submission very carefully, and that starts with making absolutely sure your manuscript cannot be improved. You might be able to fool yourself in this regard, but you won’t fool any editor or agent. Once you’ve sent off an unpolished manuscript, you’ve blown your chances. So that’s your first task: look at your novel again (and again).

Once you’ve reached the point where your novel is as free of blemishes as possible, there is no route ahead except a patient and a lonely one.  No intervention by another published writer or a contact or a cousin will help. All that matters now is the opening sentence, and then the opening paragraph, and then the opening chapter. Nothing you can say in a covering letter or a synopsis can help in any way. In fact, both could be a hindrance. So they should be kept very short and businesslike: “I enclose for your consideration the manuscript of (Title), a detective novel set in Medieval France...or, a gothic romance set in the near future...or, a novelisation of the life of Mohamed Ali. No more than that.

What I would advise is that you now email every single agent you can put a name and address to, with your complete manuscript as an attachment. You have to give the agents the chance to read all of your book, because no positive decisions are ever reached over a partial manuscript. It might help if you can target a particular editor within an agency. You stand more chance, perhaps, with a junior editor who is building up a list and so is keen to find new talent. You can usually find a list of employees on an agency website.

Now you just have to take your chances. You are bound to get some stony rejections; you can’t please everyone. You might also get some encouraging rejections. These could just be kindly but insincere. Or they might be genuinely helpful. But they are still rejections. If it turns out that not a single agent is interested in your work, then it’s not their fault, it’s the book’s. It’s either not good enough, or it’s too similar to something already published, or it’s too arcane or bizarre a novel to ever find a commercial market. Whatever the reason, this is a manuscript that should now spend some time in a bottom drawer. You will have learnt a lot from this experience but should not be so disheartened that you do not proceed to write a second novel. Remember, most first novels are never published but they are essential for a published writer’s development and success.

Yes, I know, it’s grim and dispiriting. Every single writer has to go through a similar process. But do be stubborn and do bear in mind the success stories. An excellent novel will nearly always find a publisher. A writer who loses his or her nerve after one failure will never make it into print. Good luck; I’m just glad I have all these challenges behind me, because I know what a struggle it can be.

You have asked if I would look at your first chapter and a synopsis. If you’ve written a good novel then my approval won’t help. It’ll earn itself its own agent and publisher.  If your work or your synopsis are not very good, then I do not want to be the one to either tell you or deceive you. I don’t want to puncture any writer’s confidence. Seriously, my best advice is Write your books in private and only show them to readers that matter, that is to say the editors and agents that control the entry gates to publishing. But you should feel free to contact me again at any time if you need more advice on strategy.

 I have my fingers crossed for you.

[Website note: Jim Crace has asked me to point out that his advice to new writers tries to be sincere but cannot promise to be useful or accurate.]

 

 

May 2017

 

This website was created and administered by Andrew Hewitt from January 2000 until May 2017. You can still read his insightful and informative comments in many sections below. Sadly, Andrew has decided to concentrate on other activities and other writers (especially Thomas Hardy). So www.jim-crace.com  has now become my inexpert responsibility. I hope to keep visitors up to date with news, with links and with a diary of events. I do not intend to make any critical or literary additions. My first post, below, is a brief chronology of Jim Crace’s writing career and his awards.

 

CANDORI, Rafaelo.

 

You can contact the website via rcandori@outlook.com

I am able to pass on mail to Jim Crace himself, to his agent in London, and his publishers in the USA and also in UK, but I cannot promise a reply from any third parties.

 

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY (Fiction only)

 

1977   Introduction 6 - Stories by New Writers

       Faber & Faber

1986   Continent        

       Heinemann (UK) * Harper & Row (USA)

1988   The Gift of Stones

       Secker & Warburg * Scribners

1992   Arcadia

        Jonathan Cape * Atheneum

1994   Signals of Distress

       Viking * Farrar, Straus & Giroux

1995   The Slow Digestions of the Night

       Penguin

1997   Quarantine

       Viking * Farrar, Straus & Giroux

1999   Being Dead

       Viking * Farrar, Straus & Giroux

2001   The Devil’s Larder

       Viking * Farrar, Straus & Giroux                            

2003   Six (UK), Genesis (USA)

       Viking * Farrar, Straus & Giroux

2007   The Pesthouse

        Picador * Nan A Talese

2010       All That Follows

       Picador * Nan A Talese

2013   Harvest

      Picador * Nan A Talese

2018     The Melody

      Picador * Nan A Talese

 

 

AWARDS and APPOINTMENTS

 

1986   

David Higham Prize for Fiction (for CONTINENT)

The Guardian Fiction Prize (CONTINENT)

 

1987   

Whitbread First Novel Award (CONTINENT)

 

1988   

Premio Antico Fattore (Italy)(CONTINENT)

GAP International Prize for Literature (for THE GIFT OF STONES)

 

1992              

Society of Authors’ Travelling Scholarship

 

1995   

The Royal Society of Literature’s Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize

(for SIGNALS OF DISTRESS)

 

1996   

E. M. Forster Award (American Academy of Arts and Letters)

(for SIGNALS OF DISTRESS)

 

1997   

QUARANTINE shortlisted for The Booker Prize.

 The Writers’ Guild Best Fiction Book nominee.

 

1998  

 Whitbread Novel of the Year  (QUARANTINE)

 

1999   

Elected as Fellow of The Royal Society of Literature.

QUARANTINE shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

BEING DEAD shortlisted for Whitbread Novel of the Year

 

2000   

Honorary Doctorate (D.Univ.) from the University of Central England, for

Distinguished Literary Achievements.

 

2001   

BEING DEAD - National Book Critics Circle Award  -  and selected as

Editors’ Choice, New York Times.

 

2002   

Honorary Doctorate (D.Lit.) from the University of Birmingham

 

2003   

Appointed Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at UCE/BCU

       

2004   

Premio Napoli (Italy)

 

2008   

Michener Residency Award (USA)

 

2009   

Visiting Professor of Creative Writing,

Michener Center, University of Texas

 

2012   

Visiting Professor of Creative Writing,

Michener Center,University of Texas

 

2013             

HARVEST shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Goldsmith Prize.

National Book Awards (the Nibbies):  shortlisted for Writer of the Year.

 

2014   

Winner of the $150,000 Windham  Campbell Prize for Literary Achievement (USA)from Yale University.

HARVEST shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize (for historical fiction.)

HARVEST awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

Visiting Professor of Creative Writing, University of Malta. Appointed Associate    Professor.

 

2015   

HARVEST winner of the Impac Dublin Literary Award       

Visiting Professor of Creative Writing,

Michener Center, University of Texas

 

2016      

Honorary Doctorate (D.Letters) from the University of Brighton,

“in recognition of his major contribution to the field of international literature.”

 

2017

Awarded the Paisano Fellowship and the J.Frank Dobie Residency, at the University of Texas.

 

 

The Jim Crace literary archive is housed at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

 

******

 

CONTINENT

Preface for 2017 Ecco edition.

 

During the early 1980s when the seven component parts of Continent were being dreamt up and assembled, I was working as a freelance journalist with no plans or even a desire for leaving fact for fiction. Any reputation I had amongst the publications who regularly called me up was not based on my authoritative voice or my depth -or even width- of knowledge but on my workaday reliability. I could be counted on to tackle any subject thrown in my path, to become a shallow expert in a week or two, and then turn in clean, committed copy before the deadline. I also had the advantage of living in Birmingham, far enough away from London to be considered by metrocentric editors their local correspondent in the North, the East, the West and all points in between. Cornwall, Scotland and East Anglia were my backyards, in their deficient view. Isn’t that what living in the English Midlands meant? 

So I was kept busy and I made a decent if undistinguished living out of being provincial and dependable. Besides, I liked the life. Faking a different shallow expertise twice a month was my idea of fun. But if I had a future as a journalist, it could not be a long or rosy one. Already, the golden age of weekend colour supplements which valued photo-journalism and solemn, lengthy essay pieces was coming to an end in favour of celebrity profiles and fashion spreads in which even I was not prepared to forge a professional interest. A newly arrived editor at the Sunday Telegraph Magazine informed me that the sober articles I’d just delivered -about intractable wildlife mysteries- were not her sort of thing. Her ideal cover story, she said, would be The Rise and Fall of the Shoulder Pad. That was when I knew that very soon I’d have to look elsewhere for a living.

Then I had no choice. A long, deeply researched piece I’d written about the aftermath of the Tottenham riots and the two associated deaths was spiked -pulled at the final moment, in fact- by the Sunday Times editor, Andrew Neill, for what the gossip columnist Peterborough called “quasi-political reasons.” Its place was taken by a six-page fashion spread. Now, apart from book reviews, I was almost out of work.

However, I did have one commission I could fall back on. In the mid-Seventies I’d published a single short story called Annie, California Plates, a metaphorical homage to hitch-hiking. It appeared in The New Review -the richest and most prestigious literary magazine of the time- and it was then picked up by other magazines and widely anthologised. Publishers beat a passage to my door – or they would have done if only Birmingham had been a stop on the London tube network. Mostly they phoned and required me to make the journey south. Only one of them was prepared to risk the world beyond the metrolands and travel to Birmingham to begin what was to become a lifelong association. This was the young David Godwin, the celebrated literary editor and agent, then working for Heinemann. He offered me a contract for a novel, any novel, with a payment up front of £1500. I was not accustomed to his world. I was used to the Send It Now of journalism and not his patient Take Your Time. He was asking to be robbed. I knew enough about the world of books to understand that hardly anybody made a living out of them. So I spent the publisher’s advance(on camping equipment, as I recall) and did exactly what David had advised. I took his money and I took my time. But I didn’t write a word. For years. Of course, I had to pretend once in a while, when David called, that things were going very well, “but slowly”. There isn’t any rush, he said again, though not by now with much conviction.

But once the shoulder pad began its grim, relentless rise and my career as a journalist sank beneath its weight, I had no excuse but to sit down at my manual typewriter and give fiction a proper shot. At first I tried to write the kind of realist and political novel I admired myself (Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath was my template), but pretty soon I recognised that I was singing in a stranger’s voice. The barrel I was scraping was an empty one (if I’m allowed to mix my metaphors). Then I struck lucky. I’d been asked to review a batch of novels for The Sunday Times. One of them was Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s In Evil Hour. I’d not encountered any magic realism before. I recognised at once its power and its inventiveness but felt no awe for it, not because Marquez was anything other than a master of the form but because the form itself was so much like the person I preferred to be when not on duty, when not the servile journalist who really ought to never even stretch a fact. Making things up, Marquez-style, was along with faking expertise my natural singing voice.

However, if I was a liar-cum-storyteller by nature and by impulse, I was a puritanical one. I had already lived for a period in the Sudan and Botswana and had travelled across Africa, the Indian Ocean, the Levant and Latin America; all powerful experiences and politically delicate. I wanted to write about the interfaces I’d encountered between the South and the North, or what were known then as the Developed and the Third worlds. But there were pitfalls. Fiction -especially the fiction by white men about Africa- had too often been distorting and harmful, using the continent as a blank page on which to foist European disfunctions: here, amongst their pages, were the brutes, the horrors, and the savage hearts of darkness. Surely, with inventive Marquez at my shoulder and decent Steinbeck marching at his rear, I could shake off the grubby grip of Conrad and write a work of fiction that did not besmirch any land mass that could be found on actual maps.

So I began work on Continent, set in a parallel world which I hoped would seem as real as anywhere on earth but absent from the atlases, meaning it at first to be the conventional, plotted novel Heinemann had paid me for. But I had never written anything much longer than five thousand words before and so casually, unthinkingly, I found myself producing a patchwork of linked, shorter pieces, stylistically reinforced more by my experience of journalism than my exposure to the short story structure. And it was easy. The stories tumbled out onto the page and truly felt as if they formed a patchwork of different colours but made out of the same material. All I had to do was add a spurious and entirely invented epigraph from the non-existent Pycletius to give the book a fake pedigree and I was set to -this was thirty years ago- put it in the post. When David next phoned, I could honestly report that Continent was on its way.

When Continent was published in 1986, I relished my copy of the finished hard-back; there’s nothing quite as sweet as squeaking into print. But as for sales? I was not expecting any sales. I hadn’t written Continent for sales or even in the hopes of much success. In truth, I’d written it because my Heinemann contract said I couldn’t keep their money if I didn’t. So I was grateful but unconvinced when the Irish-born British publisher, Geoffrey Mulligan, on acquiring paperback rights for Continent, claimed (correctly, given this Ecco Press edition) that it would still be in print in thirty years’ time. Looking back and comparing that first published book with the ten that would follow, however, I am bound to say that either I have learnt nothing in those intervening three decades or the voice I found by luck and chance for Continent has proven its longevity by hardly changing or evolving. I was a solemn moralist back then, relying on fabulism, metaphor and rhythmic prose instead of those more common conventions of contemporary English fiction - realism, irony and an idiomatic tone. And I remain the same today. But at the time, I thought I knew the world of books sufficiently to more accurately predict a lesser outcome than thirty years in print for what, after all, was the slimmest of volumes and one which could reasonably be dismissed as an assortment of stories pretending to be a novel, a worm behaving like a snake.

As it happened, I was fortunate. Continent was accepted generously as something more coherent than just a gathering of random pieces, more than the sum of its seven parts, exactly as I’d hoped. In one astounding week which endowed me with an enduring sense of optimism about the world of publishing, the book received three prizes, the Guardian Award, the David Higham Award and the Whitbread First Novel prize, and American rights were purchased by Harper & Row’s Ted Solotaroff for enough money to spring me free from what by then had become the prison of journalism.

The critics were divided, as they always are and always would be where my fiction was concerned, but at least I was heralded as strange and new (though not young exactly; I was already 40) and unEnglish; an oddity, in other words. Some commentators found it difficult -and many still do-  to distinguish between the playfulness of my novels and what they took to be their unembarrassed seriousness. I was especially satisfied to read in the Toronto Star,  that  Pycletius, my phantom epigraphist who had departed my imagination equipped with nothing more than his name,  was “the Greek historian and geographer” and (in The Times Literary Supplement) that his works were “arcane and irksomely septimal.”

Producing fiction was a lot more rewarding and stimulating than I expected, that’s for sure. It was a revelation, actually, and an unforeseen joy. My journalism had been an exercise in assembly and control. Fiction, though, required a looser and more thrilling grip. For Continent I’d had to cede control to narrative itself. But could I make a future out of it? Could I fool the critics once again? I was hesitant, both fearful of the risk and reluctant to slam the door for good on journalism. The most persuasive argument for moving on came one Sunday soon after Continent’s publication when I cycled down to the local greengrocers to buy the vegetables for lunch.  When my wife, Pam, unpacked the spinach, we both saw at once that it had been wrapped in one of my old articles. Neither of us spoke a word but had we been a superstitious couple, the sort that you will find in Continent, we might have seen it as a sign or, at the very least, a hint.

Jim Crace

 

 

 

 

Historical postings:

 

Jim Crace’s Books of the Year

 

It’s the season for making lists
of the best that 2013 had to offer.

Jim Crace chose the following Books of the Year
for the Guardian newspaper.

 

Spillover, David Quammen’s investigation of animal-to-human viruses (Vintage)
Falling Upwards, a history of ballooning by Richard Holmes (Harper Collins)
The Searchers (Bloomsbury), Glenn Frankel’s account of the 1836 abduction
by Comanches of Cynthia Ann Parker and its unending aftermath
Mark Cocker’s loving and magisterial Birds and People (Jonathan Cape).

 

Read what Tim Parnell, chair of the Goldsmiths Prize Judges, says about Harvest.

 

 

Read a selection of reviews of Harvest

 

 

“Everything new worth having
is paid for by the loss of something old worth keeping...”

 

Read an interview with Jim Crace
by Stephanie Cross
from the Independent on Sunday, 10 February 2013

***

Please visit the Highlights page for archived material
January 2000-January 2013

 

 

 

Jim Crace’s 140-character novel

Jim Crace responds to The Guardian newspaper’s challenge
to write a story within the 140-character limit of Twitter.

Read it here.

 

 

 

In a video talk published by the Harry Ransom Center at the
University of Texas at Austin
Jim Crace speaks about the creative process.

Please view this and other videos from Jim Crace’s 2012 residence
at the Ransom Center on the University of Texas website.

 

With thanks to the IaI and the Harry Ransom Center for making these links available.

 

 

 

“Does literature dwell with the living, or with the dead?”

 

Daniela Brockdorff, ‘Writing Death’

 

Jim Crace’s prize-winning novel Being Dead (1999) continues to attract criticism and research.
Daniela Brockdorff’s paper ‘Writing Death’ considers Crace’s novel and Graham Swift’s Last Orders
as two “provocatively poignant depictions of the interval between the instance of death and the laying to rest”.
Although both novels reject “spiritual fictions of the hereafter”,
both recognise that a “narrative needs be found to accompany a corpse to its final resting place”.
Are Crace and Swift extending the traditions of elegy to prose?
How can one write a comforting narrative “in the godless universe of Crace’s and Swift’s novels?”
Brockdorff finds that Crace’s novel “thrives on liminality” and considers whether this
“endows Being Dead, most particularly, with a potential for the sublime”.

 

To read Daniela Brockdorff’s paper ‘Writing Death’, click here.

 

 

This site is for information about the writer Jim Crace.

Much archived material, including interviews, uncollected short stories, excerpts from novels, journalism and comment, can be found by using the section headings in the left-hand frame.

 

 

This web site was launched in January 2000.
To read archived material from this site click

 News and highlights to Jan 2013

 

This site also contains the following sections

from Andrew Hewitt’s original website:

Chronology: a brief biographical and literary chronology.

Books: a discussion of Jim Crace's novels,
with extensive links and pointers to reviews and commentary about them.
This is the main section of the site. I invite ideas and contributions
from anyone with an interest in Crace's work.

Other writings: a list (and some e-texts) of other writing by Crace,
including his first published stories, plays, journalism, reviews and opinions.

Forthcoming: notes (where available) on forthcoming publications

Context: links and pointers to information and discussion about
themes present in Crace's work, including exclusive
interviews with Jim Crace.

Feedback: where you tell me about yourself and how to improve the site.

I would like to hear from anyone with ideas for content and links.
Please email me, Raf Candori

rcandori@outlook.com

 

Last update: July 2017

 

Note on copyright:

Original material on this web site is © Andrew Hewitt 2000-2013
and is available for literary non-commercial uses only.
Repurposed material is copyright as shown.
Please feel free to contact me if you want to reproduce any material
from this web site, I will try and help arrange permission if you require it.

 

aghewitt@yahoo.com