Writing from Within
Graham Swift – Picador – NZ$35
Years ago, probably 1980-81, during my days as CEO/Publisher at Penguin Books NZ I was in London visiting Penguin HQ when Peter Mayer, the mercurial publisher & international chief of Penguin, and one of his senior deputies, Patrick Wright, invited me to join them to have lunch with Graham Swift and his agent. Swift had burst on the scene with a brilliant novel, The Sweet Shop Owner, and Mayer was convinced he would write more of this quality and saw him as a future Booker Prize winner, (that hunch proved to be correct years later, 1996, when he won that prize for Last Orders), and Mayer was keen to publish him at Penguin. I was taken along to lunch to demonstrate the international reach of Penguin I suspect. Swift never did shift to Penguin but I still recall that lunch all these years later.
This afternoon we arrived at the Matakana Village cinema half an hour early for our movie, Bottle Shock. So I went into the superb Village Bookshop to buy something to read while waiting for the movie to start and came out with Swift’s latest, largely a collection of pieces of occasional non-fiction, some previously published, some not.
A chunky book of around 400 pages I didn’t get much more read than his most interesting introduction about being a novelist and how he doesn’t base his work on his own direct experiences and other aspects of creating fiction, along with his first two pieces, one on early childhood memories and the other on travelling in his gap year.
But already I am captivated by his superb and engaging writing style. I can understand why Peter Mayer badly wanted him in the Penguin stable.