Wednesday 23 March 2011

Joanna Briscoe / Writer

This week's TT Test is taken by the writer Joanna Briscoe [link] whose novels have received great critical acclaim for their psychological insight & Joanna's skill in creating suspense. Most important of all they are impossible to put down ! Her first, 'Mothers & Other Lovers' controversially won the Betty Trask award, and a third novel 'Sleep With Me' was adapted for television by Andrew Davies. Her new novel 'You' will be published by Bloomsbury later this year. She is also a regular contributor to 'The Guardian', 'Independent' & 'The Observer'. What is your wake up song at the moment? It's a surprising choice... 'Gush Forth My Tears' a 16th Century song recorded in the early 1990s by a band called Miranda Sex Garden. I only listened to it because the pianist & violinist who also teaches my daughter piano used to sing with them. Though I find the band gimmicky (the teacher isn't!), the song sticks in my mind & I return to it. Which work of art or single event has most influenced you in your chosen profession? I have to say 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles' by Thomas Hardy. I read it at 16, & not only did it make sense of the wild countryside in which I lived, but it affected me profoundly. I had never loved a novel so much, so passionately. I couldn't put it down & was haunted by it from first reading, & the combination of amazing plot, lyricism,romanticism & tragedy filled me with an admiration that only becomes deeper with time,it left me reeling. From the age of 15, I'd committed to being a writer, and here was a work of art that I could dip into whenever I wanted to. I think it also made me want to write about the countryside in which I lived. If you could travel back in time, which period would you most like to visit and why ? Here's the Tess influence again. It would have to be the Victorian era, as that novel started me widely reading within the period. It's accessible enough for us to understand, or think we understand -just a matter of a century and a half or so- yet intensely different. I've just re-read 'The French Lieutenant's Woman', which so cleverly analyses the differences between the 19th & 20th Centuries. As a teenager, I always fancied being a Victorian milk maid, of course, and putting my Laura Ashley frocks to good use. Now I can see that the reality would be pretty ghastly, but I'd still like to dip into it & take a Tess tour for the day in a suitably lush Dorset valley with some docile cows to help me. I love eating out and discovering new restaurants, can you please recommend one to me? Jin Kichi in Heath Street, Hampstead, an unprepossessing looking place but the food is just amazing. Also, I love the Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road, Hackney especially Viet Hoa [link] & Loong Key Cafe. In Ireland I love the Ballymaloe Restaurant [link] restaurant in County Cork. What is the best advice you ever been given relating to your professional/creative life ? Basically, all the times other writers have agreed that the only way is to get on with it. No faffing around, no waiting for inspiration, no making neurosis for inactivity! It took me a long time to discover this for myself, & most professional writers are in agreement. The inspiration follows... I was told by one editor to put in more plot. This was years ago. She was right. BONUS QUESTION : Last year I read 'Mothers & other Lovers' which I found quite shocking (and a great read) not for the central love story but the toe-curling behaviour of Eleanor's liberal middle class family & their friends. I never told you because I was sort of shy about it but I really did squeal with recognition & embarrassment (this is not a reflection btw of my family they are not really English & it's my conceit that having a foreign background sets me apart from this kind of behaviour!!). Do you have an allergy to bourgeoisie hippies or is the book more compassionate to the idea that as people get older they don't necessarily get wiser & we all just continue to flounder in our insecurities & weaknesses ? Eek! I'm a bit embarrassed that you read this, as it's very much a first novel, but pleased as well. Other people have reacted as you have - I think I have to make myself unembarrassed when writing, to get to some sort of truth. But I sometimes squirm at my own writing later. I did indeed have an allergy to the hippies, and still do, to be honest. I agree that we all continue to flounder to an extent - that's universal - but there's a particular sort of culture and aesthetic that drives me mad, I'm afraid! It's because I grew up with it - I went to school in Totnes, Devon: hippie/New Age epicentre - and we were surrounded by slow-talking beardies reciting mantras, and I became very urban, careerist and impatient in spirit as a teenager, in direct reaction. On the rare occasions I hear a slow Mockney-mixed-with-West-Country accent to this day, I come out in hives. It's just a childish attitude that's based in inevitable rebellion against everything I was surrounded by. Hey, cheers, man. I really really hope you have no issues around that...

Saturday 19 March 2011

Mama Rosin - Le Two step du Motorcycle

If this week's wake up song doesn't wake up you up there is no hope for you ! Mama Rosin are a Cajun band from Switzerland (which sounds a bit wrong but is so right !), & their music is truly infectious. I hope this track 'Le Two Step du Motorcycle' has you dancing ! Love tt

Thursday 17 March 2011

The Last Tuesday Society

On Sunday I visited the most peculiar shop in London (ok, maybe I exaggerate and that honour should go to 'Blustons' in Kentish Town High Street, a shop whose ladies' fashion and displays don't seem to have changed since the 1930s, not for some retro cool. I think it's actually been open since the 1930s & the stock hasn't moved on but that is it's charm). 'Vicktor Wynd's Little Shop of Horrors' [link] part of 'The last Tuesday Society' [link], is quite terrifying. You feel like you have stepped into another time where things are more gory and very dusty. If you are squeamish like me, you should definitely visit because I think squeamish people secretly get a big kick out of being scared! The Last Tuesday Society also has an intriguing lecture series and me & friend still faithful to the resolution of trying out things we've never done before attended a story telling event there hosted by Giles Abbott [link]. It was lovely because you so quickly revert to childhood and get lost in the stories, a real find, lots of love tt

Wednesday 9 March 2011


If you have a free afternoon to catch a new movie I recommend 'Howl'. It tells the story of the events which shaped Allen Ginsberg's seminal poem 'Howl' and the obscenity trial that followed it's publication. As someone who had always found 'Howl' impenetrable, the film completely drew me into the poem & also made me more open to the way that people were trying to live, think & feel differently during this period of American history. Some critics are iffy about the animation, I'm not sure if they object to the quality of the animation or the idea of accompanying a poem with animation. It worked for me as it contributed to the overall hypnotic quality of the film and because I didn't have strong ideas about or a strong attachment to the poem. James Franco is perfectly cast. love tt

Tuesday 1 March 2011

New photos !

There are a few new photos at the 'Recent Photos' section [link]. Hope you enjoy! love tt