First disabled arts champ named

First disabled arts champ named

The arts producer and strategist Andrew Miller has been appointed the first champion for the disabled in arts and culture.

New reports show how Brexit will hit the arts

New reports show how Brexit will hit the arts

English cultural organisations stand to lose £40m a year with Brexit, with 64% oif them currently working inside the European Union. The report from EUCLID, commissioned by Arts Council England, shows that between 2007 and 2016 the EU contributed £345m to England’s arts, museums and creative industries, or £40m a year.

Boost for Banbury Museum expansion

Councillors have agreed plans to double the size of Banbury’s museum in a £5m expansion scheme.

Creative Scotland apology over funding row

Creative Scotland apology over funding row

Archer promises review of funding process

Books by the Ocean

Books by the Ocean

A ‘crazy’ notion to bring a literary festival to Sri Lanka has proved an astounding success. Patrick Kelly reports

Cultural kids' programme reaching out

Cultural kids' programme reaching out

An Arts Council programme devised to help young children from deprived areas through involvement in the arts is working, according to an evaluation report published today.

Call for arts support in Northern Ireland

Call for arts support in Northern Ireland

Arts sector representatives and tourist companies in Northern Ireland have called on politicians to recognise the important role the arts plays in the economy of the region.

Music venues survey shows third ‘under threat’

Music venues survey shows third ‘under threat’

But Scotland embraces ‘Agent of Change’ principle.

Hockney is critics' choice

Hockney is critics' choice

David Hockney is to receive the Critics’ Circle Award for 2017, only the second time a visual artist has been selected for the prestigious prize in the Circle’s 105-year history.

Photojournalism's art gallery

Photojournalism's art gallery

A new website at last gives Fleet Street’s photographers a showcase for their work as art. Simon Tait spoke to its founders, Fleet Street veterans Alan Sparrow and Bret Painter-Spanyol

Museums' collecting frozen by funding cuts

Museums' collecting frozen by funding cuts

Britain’s museums are being increasingly excluded from the art market by cuts in funding, stifling the acquisitions that are the life force for public collections.

Creative industries on track to create 1m local jobs - Nesta

The creative industries are driving the UK’s economic growth, expanding twice as fast as any other sector, according to new research by Nesta.

BAFTA/BFI set harassment zero-tolerance rules

BAFTA/BFI set harassment zero-tolerance rules

Film and television organisations led by BAFT and the BFI have set a series of principles and guidelines to deal with bullying and sexual harassment in the industry.

Tax deal takes early Freuds back to Lakes

Tax deal takes early Freuds back to Lakes

Two really portraits by Lucian Freud have been left to the nation in lieu of tax and allocated to the Abbott Hall Gallery in Kendal.

Mary Beard to front Front Row

Mary Beard to front Front Row

The classics professor Mary Beard is to anchor the revamped television version of the arts review magazine Front Row when it returns in the spring.

17c mystery painting still baffling experts

17c mystery painting still baffling experts

This large picture of 1665 by an anonymous artist is one of the great mysteries of the art world, and is the centerpiece of a forthcoming major Norwich Castle Museum exhibition.

London goes Underground

London goes Underground

Photographs of some faces and places associated with the capital go on display at five London Tube stations this week.

British Art Fair goes to the Saatchi

British Art Fair goes to the Saatchi

Celebrating its 30th birthday this year, the 20/21 British Art Fair has changed ownership and will move to the Saatchi Gallery.

MY STORY Novel reality

The Barrow Fields is Phillip Lewis’s debut novel, yet even before it is published he is being talked of as “a powerful new voice in fiction” (Google Books).

He is a lawyer as well as a bibliophile whose coming of age novel has been described in the New York Times as “Beautifully written and deeply moving” in the tradition of Tom Wolfe and William Styron

 

The Barrow Fields is a painfully honest family saga centred on the relationship between a father and his son. Your own father was a lawyer and frustrated novelist. How much does the narrative draw on real life? While I drew on my own experiences in writing the book, I did my best
to translate and transform those experiences, and the emotional weight of those experiences, into an entirely or largely fictional account. There are undeniably some overt parallels, including the father’s afflictions
of alcoholism and depression— both of which plagued my own father—but the father in the book is otherwise a product of imagination.

Similarly, the other characters in the book (with the exception of the magnificent and darling canine) are fictional constructs or amalgamations in one form or another, and the lives of the characters and their victories and tragedies are likewise imagined and not based strictly on events in my life. Nevertheless, it’s fair to say that the emotions expressed in The Barrow Fields arose out of experiences I had as a younger man and my observations of life as seen through my own eyes. It took you ve years to complete the book. To what extent was writing it an exorcism of your own hard life experiences?

I’ve heard authors say that you write a book not to remember it, but to forget it, and this goal was probably in the back of my mind as I began writing The Barrow Fields. I think people have a tendency to repress, or try to ignore, or rationalise difficult or painful memories, but writing about them is pretty much the opposite
of that. When you write about hard life experiences, you have to bring them out and hold them up to the light and actually try to understand them—certainly if you are going to explain them to anyone else in
a meaningful way. What I did in writing The Barrow elds was not to focus on the memories themselves, but rather on the emotional content or weight of those memories—in other words, how I felt about them; the emotional response I had to them. For example, to this day when I return to the mountain town where I grew up, it has an oppressive quality to me that I don’t feel anywhere else in the world. In The Barrow Fields, I wanted
to create a fictional town that would make readers feel the same way that
I feel when I go back home, which was not easy to do. If I had described my hometown in purely objective terms, you’d say, “Well, that’s just delightful”. So in order to bring about that same sense of apprehension or dread that I’ve experienced for so many years, it was necessary to create an entirely new place with a character of its own. All of this was cathartic in its own way, but I’ve found that it was less of an exorcism than I would have liked.

How difficult was it to getThe Barrow Fields published?I was extremely fortunate, and
I feel like I owe the universe an enormous debt of gratitude. The daughter of a former law colleague of mine happened to know an agent in New York, and she sent him my manuscript. He read it, contacted me, and in just a few weeks he and I were working on revisions. After several months of hard labour,
we had the manuscript in pretty good fighting shape, and she was purchased at auction by Hogarth
in the US. Soon after I learned that publication rights had also been sold to Sceptre in the UK, and also the publishing companies in France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the Netherlands.

The book is firmly set in the traditions of the Appalachians, your home, yet it is being published on both sides of the Atlantic. Do you think it will be as easily appreciated by British readers as American?The major themes of the book are,
I believe, universal. If you had
to boil it down, the book, at its
most fundamental level, explores relationships more than anything else—relationships between a father and his son; between a son and his younger sister; between an adopted daughter and her parents, both adoptive and biological; between a bright young man and the girl he falls so madly in love with; between a young man and his dog. The
book explores in a very sincere way how genuine people deal with loss, separation, grief, love, and at the
end of the day, summon the strength and courage to begin to and hope again despite having no real reason to do so.

You’re a student of language and a collector of books, but literature has taken a swerve because of digital publishing with authors now able to by-pass the publishing and editing stages. Has writing itself changed as a result, and if so for the better or worse, do you think?Human beings are capable of extraordinary and boundless creativity, and I think there should be no barriers to this creativity finding an outlet for its expression. I also believe that very few literary works are created in a vacuum, and that the editorial process is invaluable and likely essential if you want to wind up with the best possible book or short story or essay. Still, I constantly thirst for new and interesting and
raw expressions of creativity and imagination, and there’s never been
a better time to find such expressions than in this digital age. If you love the written word, it’s an incredible time to be alive.

By the same token, with readers consorting to electronic tablets more and more, has the reading experience changed?The reading experience has changed for some people, and looking at
how rapidly our society is veering toward digital appliances and applications, there does seem to be
a certain inevitability regarding the change from books made from trees
to electronic books—although I, for one, will never prefer electronic books to paper ones, nor will I read a book on an electronic device unless I have no other options (magazines, yes; books, no). I’ll go down with the damn ship. In my home, I maintain a fairly extensive library of books that I’ve collected over the years. Many of the books contain my notes, annotations and various marginalia regarding
my observations, or the definitions of words I looked up. I have a daughter and two sons, all of whom I hope to one day bene t from this library. It’s something I think about constantly. What could be more meaningful
than for one of them to open a book
20 years hence and see their father’s handwriting in the margin and
know his thoughts about a particular passage, or see through their own eyes the same words that his eyes read so many years before? Could there be a more valuable inheritance? I honestly cannot think of one. And this is not something that’s likely to happen
with an electronic book.

 

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