Sunday, 14 February 2010

Book of the Week and bibliography - Jon McGregor, Even the Dogs

February has been a strong month for literary fiction, with a number of novels very likely to feature in prize lists later in the year. Even the Dogs by Jon McGregor should certainly be included in that category. McGregor has an excellent website, which provides a comprehensive background to the writing of this book, along with a lot of other interesting information. I have thoroughly enjoyed both of his previous novels, and it seems likely that he will make an important contribution for many years to come, so for a collector now would also be a good time to pick up his earlier novels. The subject matter of Even the Dogs may be grim, but it will probably turn out to be one of the books of the year. As a footnote, it is also the first bendyback to be published in the UK, a format is mid-way between hardcover and paperback, with a very thin board binding (0.42mm) and a cover design printed onto 150gsm linen. This firm but flexible style of binding is popular in Europe, and in Germany is called a “smartcover”.

Jon McGregor was born in Bermuda in 1976. He moved with his family to England and spent his childhood in Norwich and Thetford, Norfolk, later studying at Bradford University for a degree in Media Technology and Production. He started writing seriously during his final year at University, contributing a series entitled 'Cinema 100' to the anthology Five Uneasy Pieces (Pulp Faction). He has had short fiction published by Granta magazine, and a short story entitled 'While You Were Sleeping' broadcast on Radio 4. He left Bradford for Sheffield, then Nottingham, taking a series of shift-jobs to support his writing, and wrote his first novel, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, in Nottingham, while living on a narrowboat. This novel received much press attention, as he was the youngest contender and only first novelist on the longlist for the 2002 Man Booker Prize. The novel is set on an unnamed inner-city street on 'the last day of summer', and tells two parallel stories: one of the residents on the street on that day, ending in tragedy; one set a year later, telling of a former resident's attempts to unravel the facts of the tragedy. The Sunday Times named it a ' … triumphant prose-poem of ordinariness …', celebrating ' … the miraculousness of the everyday.' It went on to win the Betty Trask Prize and the Somerset Maugham Award and to be shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Eurasia Region, Best First Book) and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. His second novel, So Many Ways To Begin, was published in 2006, and also longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

“They break down the door at the end of December and carry his body away”
On a still and frozen day between Christmas and New Year, a man’s body is found lying in his ruined flat. Found, and then taken away, examined, investigated and cremated. As the state begins its detailed, dispassionate inquest, the man embarks on his last journey through a world he has not ventured into, alive, for years. In his wake, a series of fractured narratives emerge from squats and alleyways across the city: the short and stark story of the man, and of his friends who look on from the shadows, keeping vigil as the hours pass, paying their own particular homage. As they watch, their stories unfurl layer by layer; stories of lives falled through the cracks, hopes flaring and dying, love overwhelmed by a stronger need, and the havoc wrought by drugs, distress, and the disregard of the wider world.
Intense, exhilarating, and shot through with hope and fury, Even the Dogs is an intimate exploration of life at the edges of society; littered with love, loss, despair and a glimpse of redemption.”


Cinema 100 - in "4 uneasy pieces", Pulp Faction, 1998.
If nobody speakes of remarkable things - Bloomsbury, 2002.
So many ways to begin - Bloomsbury, 2006.
Even the Dogs - Bloomsbury, 2010

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