THIS ISN'T THE SORT OF THING THAT HAPPENS TO SOMEONE LIKE YOU: Jon McGregor is book club guest author on Tues 16 April, 9-10pm

(134 Posts)

Our March Book of the Month is a short story collection that highlights the tremendous power and beauty of this form of fiction. THIS ISN'T THE SORT OF THING THAT HAPPENS TO SOMEONE LIKE YOU is set in a bleak, Fenland landscape where everyday lives are acted out in quiet communities. Every one of the thirty tales is completely different, with a unique voice. All the characters seem to be threatened in some way; some manage to find peace, some are thrust further into danger.

Twice nominated for the Man Booker Prize and winner of numerous awards, Jon McGregor is a particularly skillful and distinctive writer. His style is strange, mysterious, authentic, unusual and poetic. Reading the book is like holding a delicate yet devastating crystal ball, containing strange, shape-shifting visions of the lives of others. Linda Grant put it best, in her Financial Times review: McGregor is the contemporary master of lives lived in what the Irish call a small way, and the belief, which is literature's, that we are all poetic.'

You can find more details on our March book of the month page.

You can get your paperback or Kindle version of the book here.

And don't miss the insider knowledge on all Jon's work, his BBC Short Story Awards and who he considers to be a ground-breaking British writer at his excellent website or you can follow him on Twitter: @jon_mcgregor

We are thrilled that Jon will be answering questions about THIS ISN'T THE SORT OF THING THAT HAPPENS TO SOMEONE LIKE YOU, his previous books and his writing career on Tuesday 16 April, 9-10pm. So please feel free to discuss the book here throughout the month and then come and join in the author chat on Tues 16.

Looking forward to hearing what you think...

Mspontipine Tue 16-Apr-13 21:44:53

grin Yes I'm afraid it's not my real name. Love it that you watch In the Night Garden. It makes you ... real!

I'll keep reading. Thanks for the reply.

TractorKate Tue 16-Apr-13 21:45:29

Another fan here of 'If Nobody Speaks..' Thought you got the students packing up to leave their student home spot on -t he memories of packing up and not having a clue where you were going. Haven't read the short stories yet but will certainly try and get hold of them. Do you have any other novels in the pipeline?

JonMcGregor Tue 16-Apr-13 21:46:35

Mspontipine

grin Yes I'm afraid it's not my real name. Love it that you watch In the Night Garden. It makes you ... real!

I'll keep reading. Thanks for the reply.

Haven't watched Night Garden in earnest for a few years now, but the theme tune can still render me an emotional wreck....

pillowcase Tue 16-Apr-13 21:48:04

I haven't managed to read the book, or any of yours, but will. Thanks for interesting discussion

JonMcGregor Tue 16-Apr-13 21:48:13

TractorKate

Another fan here of 'If Nobody Speaks..' Thought you got the students packing up to leave their student home spot on -t he memories of packing up and not having a clue where you were going. Haven't read the short stories yet but will certainly try and get hold of them. Do you have any other novels in the pipeline?

Thanks, TractorKate! I can concede now, a decade or so later, that a lot of the student stuff in that book was pretty autobiographical - if not actually my own experience then the experience I was seeing around me.

Other novels in the pipeline? Yep. Getting there. I can't tell you anything about it/them though. Official Secrets.

JonMcGregor Tue 16-Apr-13 21:50:23

JonMcGregor

TillyBookClub

Who's there?

Interrupting cow.

Er... someone's supposed to say "Interrupting cow who" now. Not sure this is going to catch on as a comedy format.

JonMcGregor Tue 16-Apr-13 21:50:53

pillowcase

I haven't managed to read the book, or any of yours, but will. Thanks for interesting discussion

And that "but will" has made my evening. Thanks!

Oh no, I thought that was the joke - I was guffawing quite loudly already

Interrupting cow who?

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 16-Apr-13 21:53:29

JonMcGregor

JonMcGregor

TillyBookClub

Who's there?

Interrupting cow.

Er... someone's supposed to say "Interrupting cow who" now. Not sure this is going to catch on as a comedy format.

Interrupting cow who?

Mspontipine Tue 16-Apr-13 21:53:30

Interrupting cow who?

Calypso2 Tue 16-Apr-13 21:53:53

Thanks for answering my question. I love nothing better than to nosy at other folks so am certainly not condemning you for it! i think you're right about the small details really anchoring a character, Its interesting that hardly any of the characters in your short stories or If Nobody is named! Is that deliberate?

Ps event read any of your other books -seem to remember there's one about dogs? Should I? Which ones?

JonMcGregor Tue 16-Apr-13 21:54:06

MOOO!

JonMcGregor Tue 16-Apr-13 21:54:27

No. That really didn't work, did it?

Oh and a quick reminder to anyone who hasn't posted yet that we only have about 10 minutes to go, so any last questions do pop them here...

Mspontipine Tue 16-Apr-13 21:56:26

Nope. Maybe stick with what you're good at wink

pillowcase Tue 16-Apr-13 21:57:29

Jon, I see you're hosting an event with George Saunders soon for Writers&Artists I think. What will that entail and have you done similar before?

I'm dying to get out to events/conférences but live too far from everything so have to just imagine.

JonMcGregor Tue 16-Apr-13 21:59:17

Calypso2

Thanks for answering my question. I love nothing better than to nosy at other folks so am certainly not condemning you for it! i think you're right about the small details really anchoring a character, Its interesting that hardly any of the characters in your short stories or If Nobody is named! Is that deliberate?

Ps event read any of your other books -seem to remember there's one about dogs? Should I? Which ones?

Hang on [dons marketing hat]

The one about dogs is called Even The Dogs, but it's not really about dogs. It's about a dead guy. It's about a dead guy, and his friends, and what happened to him and them before he died and after he died. They're all drug users and drinkers and people living on the margins and it's fair to say it's not a beach read. It's the book I'm proudest of, but I wouldn't blame you if you didn't start with it.

Before that was So Many Ways To Begin, which is about a museum curator who uncovers surprises about his own family history, and is set in Coventry and Aberdeen and Donegal and most of the 20th century, and is about memory and archives and love. It's a quiet book.

And that's it. You're halfway through the set already. I'm a slow worker.

This reminds me. I think I missed a question from much earlier about Even The Dogs...

Well, you made me laugh at lot. But I think Michael Macwhatshisface can probably rest easy that Mumsnet Webchat Comedy is still a way off stealing his crown...

JonMcGregor Tue 16-Apr-13 22:04:13

pillowcase

Jon, I see you're hosting an event with George Saunders soon for Writers&Artists I think. What will that entail and have you done similar before?

I'm dying to get out to events/conférences but live too far from everything so have to just imagine.

I am so excited about this. George Saunders is a hero of mine. I'm hosting a reading with him in Nottingham on May 28th, and then one at the Southbank in London on May 29th. I'll ask him some questions, and get him to read some of his stories. I'll try and get to the bottom of what makes his stories so great, and attempt to learn a bit more about how he goes about putting them together.

If you're too far from everything (everything?) then you could always try finding video clips of readings and Q&As on youtube or book festival websites. I think Edinburgh Book Festival post quite a lot of video. Some book festivals livestream events as well now.
It's second best, I know, but occasionally writers have interesting things to say about their work at these events. Occasionally...

pillowcase Tue 16-Apr-13 22:07:00

everything? Yes, rural France...

Good tip on video clips, thank budweiser for the interweb

Calypso2 Tue 16-Apr-13 22:07:45

Thank you thank you. It's great to hear your own summary of your backlist. I'll go out and buy the other 2 and give them a go - I like a challenge.

We've run out of time, and have to let Jon get to his bed/drink/what he's writing next.

Thank you to everyone for an excellent discussion and questions.

Jon, it has been great fun and highly illuminating to talk to you tonight. Thank you so much for taking the time to be here, and also for your considered and detailed answers. I hope you don't feel nervous anymore, and that you'll come back and talk to us again when the next project is finished.

Good luck with it all, and many thanks again.

gailforce1 Tue 16-Apr-13 22:11:08

I can recommend Even the Dogs - borrowed from the library as an audio book and the narrator was excellent.

JonMcGregor Tue 16-Apr-13 22:12:21

wordfactory

Hi Jon.

When I talk to my students about unusual novel structures, I always mention Even the Dogs.

Could you tell me how you would describe that structure? I often call it fractured or splintered...but that doesn't seem to do it justice.

Also, could you comment on how you came to use that particular structure and if you had considered anyhting more traditional/usual?

By the way it is one of my all time favourite books, even more powerful when read out loud. As a fellow novelist I can only say that it is both a work of absurdly briliant technique and a heartbreaking, page turner. I salute you!

There, found it. Knew there was one I'd missed...
Hi Wordfactory - thanks for this, really appreciate it.
Not sure how I'd describe the structure of Even the Dogs, in part because each of the five chapters has a different structure anyway. But I guess the recurring style would be something like 'broken' - lots of sentences that trail out, lots of stories which don't tie together.
The style in each chapter is linked to the theme, so eg the first chapter is about the body being discovered, so much of the narrative is revelatory (the layers peeling back, literally in the case of the wallpaper); the second chapter is about the body being carried across town, which mirrors Danny's journey to find his dealer, so the prose is very restless and rapid; the third chapter is the body in the morgue, and takes on the feel of a wake, and the stories are all characterised by waiting.... etc etc.

I'm sure I've written about this in more detail/clarity on my website somewhere. Let me try and find the link.

JonMcGregor Tue 16-Apr-13 22:13:55

Ah... while I was typing that longish answer you all went home without me. Well, that's fine. It's past my bedtime anyway. Thanks all for reading the book, and for asking questions and sticking around to hear the answers. It was a pleasure talking to youse all.

Until the next time....

Jon

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