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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)
TillyBookClub Fri 15-Feb-13 12:03:58

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...

pillowcase Sat 13-Apr-13 00:10:59

oh missed this but am marking my place to come and listen anyway

TillyBookClub Mon 15-Apr-13 11:41:52

pillowcase, we'd love to have you - everyone welcome.

I've just sent advance questions to Jon and now very much looking forward to tomorrow night, see y'all at 9pm..

TillyBookClub Mon 15-Apr-13 11:45:36

And to all those fans of 'If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things', do feel free to ask Jon questions about that book, or his writing career in general.

Our bookclub chats always cover the author's entire career, so everyone welcome.

Hullygully Tue 16-Apr-13 08:57:13

well, much as I would have liked to join in, my copy of the book failed to materialise so I can't <massive huff>

HormonalHousewife Tue 16-Apr-13 10:03:42

I really enjoyed this book Jon, thanks for giving us the opportunity to ask some questions about this.

I was wondering how you feel about actual books in comparison with electronic readers, in particular how would 'in winter the sky' feel to read electronically. Would it work and have the same effect ? On paper this opposite page 'thing' works really well. A bit confusing in its approach at first but then i kind of got it. ( strangely this is a recurring dream of mine over the years that I have done some serious harm and not yet been caught but awaiting being found out grin so a bit eerie for me !)

Can you explain your thinking on the subheadings on each chapter ? my take on this wild was that these were the type of stone used for the burial headstones for the person who died in each story.

Can 'fleeting complexity' really be considered as a short story ?

'we wave and call'. This really affected me. I thought it was haunting. Do you have any personal experiences which you lean on to help write any of these stories. I truly hope not and that you just have a very vivid imagination.

Tilly, the sugarbeet story I just wildly again assumed there had been a random accident which the two men seized upon and pretended to help the woman before killing her opportunist crime style.

Can you explain why you added the final chapter 'Memorial Stone' ?

thanks. This was one of the most thought provoking books I have read for a while.

TillyBookClub Tue 16-Apr-13 12:07:47

Hully, sorry to hear you didn't get a free copy this time. Come anyway if you want to chat about Jon's other books?

gazza, did you manage to find a copy at Waterstones?

And a quick call-out to MeanMotherClucker, lilibet, thejoblot, ElectricSoftParade, SunshinePanda, gailforce1, PointeShoes plus anyone who did receive one of the free copies - hope you're able to make it tonight and looking forward to seeing you at 9.

Hullygully Tue 16-Apr-13 12:25:45

No I don't because I'm SULKING and have to go out

Just read AM Homes' May We Be Forgiven. Wot a corker.

lilibet Tue 16-Apr-13 14:40:05

Hi Jon, thanks for coming onto mumsnet. This was the first of your books that I have read and I loved the way that you wrote and will certainly read your other books. Sorry I won't be here tonight, but there are a couple of things I would like to talk about.

Firstly something that maybe completely out of your control. On the cover of my book it talked about a boy setting fire to a barn. This put a slant on the relevant story that wasn't actually stated. Was this the background to the story but it didn't make it to the page, or was it just your publishers?

When does a short story stop being a short story?


JonMcGregor Tue 16-Apr-13 16:29:15

This isn't the kind of test post that happens to a forum like this.

JonMcGregor Tue 16-Apr-13 16:31:13


oh missed this but am marking my place to come and listen anyway

This isn't the sort of test post using the quote feature that happens to a post like this on a forum like this.

(I won't be using the 'This isn't the sort of... ' format all evening, don't worry.)

CautionaryWhale Tue 16-Apr-13 16:33:03


gazzalw Tue 16-Apr-13 17:43:01

East Anglia is quite an oppressive and claustrophobic environment in which to live. Did you choose it purposefully for this reason for these rather unsettling stories? Are you native-born or have you spent years living there?

gailforce1 Tue 16-Apr-13 18:01:15

Hi Tilly, I'm here and looking forward to the chat later.
Thank you for the free copy of the book as I would not have gone out and bought a copy myself and I would have missed out on some very powerful writing.
Can I ask Jon which authors he reads and are there any books that he finds himself returning to?

Hullygully Tue 16-Apr-13 19:50:04

with the boy setting fire to a barn, were you influenced by Stephen King's Firestarter?

SunshinePanda Tue 16-Apr-13 20:31:04

Hi Jon, I think I am still bewildered by some of your stories! I am impressed particularly by the way you make the bleakness of human relationships at times seem beautifully sad. I was so pleased that you revisited Catherine and Michael in Grantham as I loved Which Reminded Her Later. What made you decide to revisit these particular characters?

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 16-Apr-13 20:35:33

Frivolous comment <lowers tone>: the acronym for this book is TITSOTTHTSLY, which sounds a/ a bit rude and b/ a bit like a MN nickname.

What's your favourite book title? And how do you come up with your unusual titles? If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things is beautiful.

Hullygully Tue 16-Apr-13 20:40:14

I haven't read this book yet <glares at Tilly> but I did read If Nobody Speaks (which had a pivotal car incident I hope or it wasn't that) and I have been round the dreary old fens on a large and very cold boat. Do you come up with your titles yourself? They are of a piece and quite modern, it strikes me.

Hullygully Tue 16-Apr-13 20:40:40

haha cross post

Hullygully Tue 16-Apr-13 20:43:19

I would also like to ask Tilly, in reference to:

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

what drugs she takes before her lyric poesies weave their dreamy magic?

I really am going in a min, will leave you in peace.

wordfactory Tue 16-Apr-13 20:56:47

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!

TillyBookClub Tue 16-Apr-13 21:00:39

Evening everyone

This is the first time we have done short stories as a Book of the Month, so please feel free to ask multiple questions and discuss as many of the stories as you wish.

I am delighted that Jon is joining us tonight to talk about his writing career and the remarkable THIS ISN'T THE SORT OF THING THAT HAPPENS TO SOMEONE LIKE YOU.

Jon, firstly, thank you very much indeed for taking the time to be here. And many congratulations on your mesmerising, thought-provoking book. We'll kick off with the advance questions from further up the thread. And then we'll aim to get through as many new ones as possible over the next hour (although getting through all the posts above may take a good chunk of that...)

I'd also like to add our two standard MN Bookclub questions (which we like to ask all authors):

Which childhood book most inspired you?

What would be the first piece of advice you would give anyone attempting to write fiction?

Over to you...

JonMcGregor Tue 16-Apr-13 21:05:24

Evening all. Is it okay to be nervous? Feel like my typing skills are going to be tested. Okay. Will answer these two standard questions, then post answers to the questions I was sent earlier, and then get cracking on the live questions.

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

Childhood books:
The Elephant and the Bad Baby (and they went rumpeter, rumpeter, rumpeter, all down the road)
Swallows & Amazons. The entire series. Numerous times.

JonMcGregor Tue 16-Apr-13 21:06:51

First piece of advice to writers?
Read more. Read a lot more. Be influenced.

JonMcGregor Tue 16-Apr-13 21:07:18

brendarenda Sat 30-Mar-13 18:41:46
I'd like to know how Jon McGregor goes about getting the balance right between what's in the story and what he leaves out. Does he write a 'bigger' story and then edit it back to its essence, I wonder?

Hi Brendarenda - thanks for your question. I like your image of there being just a cigarette paper between the different outcomes; that was very much the feeling I had about a lot of these stories while I was writing them, that they could go either way and that sometimes it might be best to leave them before it becomes clear which way they go.
Anyway - a bigger story? Sometimes. But never deliberately. Sometimes when a story isn't working, I've stripped out particular characters or scenes (or the beginning and the end) and found the story works better as a result. Sometimes I've done this for an arbitrary reason - in one case, because Radio 4 needed something to be exactly 15 minutes long. I cut that story in half to fit the time, and it improved a lot as a result.
But other times, I've just stopped when I've realised I can't take the story any further. 'Fleeing Complexity' is an example of this..

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