Recent QuestionsSubmitted by visitors to this website
Posted by Cyril IoutsenDecember 12th 2013
Dear Mr Nicholson, First of all, let me express my admiration of your work. I have read almost all of your published novels and plays and there seems to be a kind of simplicity (in the best sense of the word), a lack of unnecessary complication, which is so characteristic of much of purposedly 'high-minded' literature of today. And that gives a feeling of natural purity, making them particularly credible and efficient emotionally. I guess it really takes to be a master to draw all those diverse characters in such life-like a manner. So, thanks a lot. I actually cried at the end of 'Motherland', when Larry found out it was his dad who was buying his pictures, and at Ed's suicide, too, it was all so well written. I wonder (silly question), do you experience all the emotions yourself, when you're writing about them? Second, a bibliographical inquiry. In this Q&A section I have learned about the existence of 'The Seventh Level', your first published book from 1979. Are there any other books you published, which aren't mentioned on this site? Thank you again, and also for your time.
William Nicholson responded:
About experiencing emotions as I write: the answer is yes. I so identify with my characters that I live through their experiences with them, and (a little absurdly perhaps) I do sometimes weep as I write. On other books: there are no more published books by me to be dug up, but there are many unpublished novels - seven, in fact - in my bottom drawer gathering dust. They have great meaning for me, as part of my development, but they're not good enough to be published.
Posted by Andrew SDecember 3rd 2013
Dear William, What is the most enjoyable film / screenplay by someone else you have seen this year? (I am looking for film suggestions) Andrew
William Nicholson responded:
I really admired Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine. I haven't seen many of the best of the crop yet, so more to come, I'm sure.
My article on the writing of the Mandela film is in the Guardian today – you can find it here.Read more...
At the Royal Premiere last night with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Towards the end of the screening in the Odeon Leicester Square there seemed to be a lot of scuffling, people coming and going in the royal circle. Then the film ended, the audience applauded – standing ovation – and Anant Singh, the producer, came on stage with Idris Elba, to say that Mandela had died. The strangest sensation. Silence filled the cinema. One of the South African actors sitting near me started weeping. Mandela’s two daughters had been with us earlier – now they were gone. So my long close relationship with this man I never met, but who I feel I know so well, is over. He’s been so ill for so long that I’m happy he’s set free at last. I’m also amazed that our version of his life story, which has been so hard to wrestle into shape, and has taken so long to bring to the screen, has arrived just as his life ends. This isn’t the kind of thing anyone can plan. His life and his legacy are a million times more important than any film, but at least those who know nothing about him will get a glimpse, through our work, of why he is – was – such a great man. He brought peace to his country, at great personal cost. Now he deserves his own peace.Read more...
A fine party at the Naval & Military Club in St James Square, grand location, packed crowd, and generous amounts of champagne and wine. Both Nancy Sladek, editor of the Literary Review, and Alexander Waugh, hosting the evening, were friendly and welcoming, and thanked me for coming. I assured both that for the duration of the evening I was here to celebrate, not to make waves. For a while as circulated I was being told by well-wishers that I’d be bound to win the much-dreaded prize, because I’d made a nuisance of myself complaining in public about it, or because I’d promised (on the Today programme) to give a speech if I won, or simply because I’d turned up, and a cringing author is needed for the emotional climax of the evening. So I tried to prepare a speech in my head as the drink and the merriment flowed. Then came the opening speech, by Alexander Waugh, which explained how ¬†those who’ve complained have got the wrong idea entirely, that the awards are benign and designed only to raise literary standards, that the award-givers all love sex in books and in life, and so on. Then came the time for the reading out of the nominated extracts, in a manner designed to entertain. Much laughter at the comical attempts of the writers to describe sex. I braced for the moment when my own offering would be delivered, puzzling a little over how it would generate laughs (it’s all dialogue, and contains no adjectives or metaphors, the main source of merriment). But it never came. It seemed my extract had been left out; as had two others. I knew then I had not won, and would not be making a speech. The fixed smile, ready for the being-a-good-sport moment when my writing was mocked, could unfreeze from my face. But why had I been dropped? The winner was announced – Manil Suri, an American, not present – and the party resumed. I asked Nancy Sladek why I’d been dropped, and she replied, generously, ‘Because your extract wasn’t bad enough.’ I think they had a time issue, and didn’t want the evening to run on too long.
Interestingly, in the light of my call for a Good Sex award in literature, an article in the Independent by Jonathan Beckman of the Literary Review, clearly in answer to my criticisms, ended by citing an example of good sex writing – an extract from James Salter’s ‘A Sport and a Pastime’: a positive critical approach I welcome. So maybe my decision not to hide from the shame of being nominated has been of some small value.Read more...
Up early to Broadcasting House to talk about the Bad Sex award with Rowan Pelling on the Today programme. We were preceded by Tristram Hunt being grilled by Sarah Montague on education policy. I was awestruck by the command of detail on both sides, and by Hunt’s ability to stay focussed under pressure. We all take for granted the ability of politicians to handle grillings like this, we say it’s their job, they’ve chosen it, and so on, but I know I could never do it. You need a very fast brain and a deep command of every aspect of your brief. So too Sarah Montague, who’s presumably obliged to master brief after brief at short notice. I think it struck me all the more forcibly because I was sitting right next to them both.
My time came, and I said what I could, but the fact is I remember almost nothing. Rowan Pelling was excellent, and made the point that we hide our fear of talking about sex behind a front of irony. Afterwards she warned me that I would probably win the award tonight as a reward (or punishment) for sticking my head above the parapet. Or just for the continuing publicity. So I shall now prepare a speech, just in case.Read more...