Mike Interviews: Julian Barnes Part 3 of 3

The View From Here Interview: Julian Barnes
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by Mike

Julian Barnes is the award winning author of over 10 novels. Two of which have picked up Booker nominations and his latest novel Arthur & George was Booker shortlisted in 2005. In the past he has been, amongst other things, the deputy literary editor for The Sunday Times, the London Correspondent for the New Yorker magazine and has appeared on Desert Island Discs . He currently lives in London.

He latest book is Nothing to be Frightened of.

Part 1 of the interview can be read here.
Part 2 of the interview here.

What does the novel do in today’s culture and do you think it has changed from Renard's day?
It does what it always does: it tells a story which tells the truth. Forms change, social reality changes, but the point and meaning of narrative have changed very little - as has the human animal.

What advice would you give new writers?
Don't do it unless you really want to; don't do it expecting to earn a living from it; don't do it expecting praise, or to solve the problems of your life; don't do it in the belief that you live in a country which is broadly welcoming to culture; don't do it unless you love language and narrative and form. And don't listen too much to advice-giving writers clutching their bus passes. Find your own way.

What do you think about the state of the publishing industry today and has it changed since you started?
It's changed enormously. I spent seven or eight years writing my first novel, hesitantly delivered the manuscript, got £750 (I think) for it, did a single interview to publicise it, watched the book just about scramble into paperback, savoured the moment and the whole process, loved 'being a writer', but still never imagined I would make a living from writing books. Publishers didn't expect to make money from a 'literary novelist', as they were quaintly called, for three, four, five books - a literary career was, characteristically, something that was slowly built. Nowadays a novel may be bought from a first-time writer on the basis of a synopsis, 50 pages, a c.v. and a glamorous photo - and lots of money may be paid. And then the marketing of the book kicks in, and if the book takes off, the young star is suddenly in a world of photographers and multi-city tours. The commercial pressures are much, much greater - the publisher wants their money back, the pressure on a young writer to write that 'break-through' book is more severe. I'm not against young writers making money - on the contrary. But I am in favour of young writers writing the best books they are capable of. And being protected against disappointment. Though maybe disappointment will make them better writers, who knows?

What book are you currently working on?
I'm taking a break, and doing a few (literary) odd jobs that have built up while I was writing 'Nothing' - an edition of the Irish short-story writer Frank O'Connor, a long piece about Penelope Fitzgerald, an introduction to Clough's 'Amours de Voyage', stuff like that. I've just finished a short story, but am still deciding what to write next that will be of any extent.
Thankyou Julian, it has been great chatting with you.

For this interview in the printed magazine of TVFH click here.

For the Julian Barnes website click here.


aussiecynic said...

Great interview mike
He was open and frank .... didnt mince his words ...
well done..
I'll be hunting it down...

Mike French said...

Good luck finding the book Aussie !

Paul Burman said...

I feel replete, Mike. Very satisfied. I feel I must go out and read something by Julian Barnes now, so well have you managed this introduction. The additional links (Sky Arts interview, etc) add to this. Thanks.

Mike French said...

Paul - Is this a good thing or a bad thing?! At this rate you won't be able to leave the house for mounds of books!

Paul Burman said...

It's a bad thing, Mike. It's another bad thing.

He's the third author I've committed to reading this week alone. And having said I will, I'm honour-bound (besides, I want to now). Might not be for a few months, but I'll get there.

Mike French said...

Paul: Sorry mate!