The words rolled out, natural and clear, and I listened with new ears and understanding. Enlightenment had finally come. Passages spoken aloud in an Irish accent, by someone who loved the prose enough to commit long passages to memory, released the book’s power. Its beauty had been unlocked not by a literary intellectual, but by a half-tight man in a cheap suit standing at the bar of a Dublin pub. Finnegans Wake was revealed as a work of sound rather than sense, a form of high falutin, Gaelic, literary rap. Ireland talking in her sleep. It was as if Brian had taken me by the elbow, and guided me into this particular tavern to receive a final, Celtic benediction.
Gail, Hazel and Jennie talk to the artist and illustrator (and master of pastiche) David Eccles about the craft of marrying image and text. The actress Petra Markham takes to the airwaves with Posy Simmonds, and the printmaker Angie Lewin recalls her experience of being commissioned for a Slightly Foxed cover.
I first met Jan Morris in the offices of the publisher Random House in New York in the early 1980s. I was a junior editor there, and was invited to meet someone I considered to be one of the most intriguing writers I had read. This was nothing more than a handshake and an acknowledgement of our shared Britishness in New York. But I was immediately struck by Jan’s warmth and affability, qualities that are key to her genius for talking to people and drawing stories from them. (For while Jan is less of an extrovert in person than in her writings, and indeed in some ways is quite reserved, she nonetheless possesses a remarkable ability, surely learned in the world of journalism, to nose out a story.)
Posy’s dialogue is as good as her draughtsmanship, and she has a talent for names (an area in which so many writers fall down) which is as good as that of Evelyn Waugh or Anthony Powell. What enchants and convinces in all her work is the brilliantly observed detail. If Posy draws a French coffee pot it is a completely authentic French coffee pot. The appearance of her characters – toddlers, sulky teenagers, pushy mothers, angst-ridden authors, pretentious publishing types – is always spot on. This kind of texture, she says, is the equivalent of verbal description in a novel . . .