Before your first novel August you had written collections of poetry. How far has the poet shaped and influenced I’ll Go to Bed at Noon?
I always feel that good prose should have something of the qualities of good poetry, whilst remaining distinctively prose – not sure what those qualities are but it is something to do with compression, sonority, balance…
The Economist called I’ll Go to Bed at Noon the best portrayal of drunkenness since Kingsley Amis. Was it always your intention to explore drink and drinkers to such a degree in this novel?
Yes it was, although it is primarily a book about families and the dynamics of families – this family happens to have a drink problem, but at the same time I wanted to explore drinking as far as I could, and even to celebrate it. I think the ambivalence of the novel rests on the fact that the family are both sustained and destroyed by drink. I was also keen to get in as much detail as I could about the pubs of the era, and there are several epicdrinking sessions which allow this.
The novel opens with a quote from Andrei Bely’s Petersburg about rooms and the Jones’ house features prominently in the novel. How far do you believe people’s homes shape their lives and reflect their personalities?
Someone described the house in the two novels as another character, which I was pleased with, and it will feature in the third novel as well. I believe houses almost literally shape the lives of their inhabitants, it is something I have explored in my poetry as well, and in the process the houses are also shaped, and bear the traces and marks of the lives lived in them. If you think about this long enough you even begin to wonder where exactly the boundaries between houses and people lie – Heidegger (who was a big influence on me), said a lot about this, as did other phenomenological philosophers (eg Merleau-Ponty) I came across them during my years as a student of anthropology, and became intrigued by the idea that categorical boundaries are not as sharp as we might think, we might even question whether any boundaries exist at all, and houses become a kind of outer skin or exoskeleton. At the same time there is nothing so clearly bounded as a house, and the rooms become compartments – hence the beauty of the Bely quote.
The title of the novel is a line spoken by the Fool in King Lear. Can you explain why you chose this particular quotation for your title?
They are the last words spoken by the fool, and are taken to mean ‘I’ll die young’, which was appropriate for Janus, who I think of as being a bit like a fool or trickster in the novel. Also the quote evokes drunkenness, and at one point Janus is on nightwork, so literally goes to bed at noon. The theme of Lear is taken up elsewhere, Aldous strongly identifies with the character of Lear himself
Your first novel August also features the Jones’ family. Was it always your intention to write more than one novel about their lives?
Not always – but at some point quite early in the writing of August I realised I would want to do another novel to follow the story on. August itself seems so self contained as a narrative that it didn’t seem right to carry the narrative too far forward, beyond the end of the Welsh holidays, and I saw that Noon would need to be quite a big book to do justice to the characters. As for the third part, I still don’t know if it will be a big book or a smaller book.
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