What she does next is even more appalling. Moving across a blurred European Morvern Callar, a low-paid employee in the local supermarket in a desolate and beautiful port town in the west of Scotland, wakes one morning in late December to find her strange boyfriend has committed suicide and is dead on the kitchen floor. Morvern is utterly hypnotizing from her very first sentence to her last. She rarely goes anywhere without the Walkman left behind as a Christmas present by her dead boyfriend, and as she narrates this strange story, she takes care to tell the reader exactly what music she is listening to, giving the stunning effect of a sound track running behind her voice.
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What she does next is even more appalling What would be your own biggest criticism of the novel? Poets and composers do it too. They want to unify things. But I am saddened and feel mildly swindled when I learn that a book you thought was written in — say — , was actually quite substantially tampered with and revised by its author in , with large bits of it cut out or many sentences reformed and other things added. It seems to me like a sour breach of the space-time continuum.
I find old Waugh a snobbish, cold, cruel writer, but it would be churlish to deny his work can sometimes be memorable and impressively written. If you look at an early edition of Brideshead Revisited from the s, it is a slightly different text from later editions which he rewrote.
Waugh claimed he was so obsessed with food - due to the wartime rationing — at the time of writing, that he over-stuffed the book with descriptions of eating. But he made other changes too.
I tried to make it as good as I could at the time, as I do with all my stuff. A change I would make is one I have been failing to make for twenty years.
Take a look at the book. The epigraph comes before the Acknowledgements — a basic typesetting error. When they did a movie tie-in edition of Morvern I did manage to get the epigraph and acknowledgements swapped round but guess what? When the next editions came out — the ones with the sort of rose gold covers — the bloody thing had changed back again!
I remember jumping up and down on the spot screaming when I saw that — the perfect image of a non-revising author. Do you have any regrets about, or were there any pitfalls to, receiving such acclaim so early in your writing career?
I suppose in our world and its media, the choice a no brainer. It really encourages you to keep on doing this, to free up your imagination and let your fancy take you where it may, as a writer. I have met many readers at book events; sometimes they write to me and without trying to sound crass, it is very moving for me to learn that readers can react - often so profoundly - to my private inner imaginings and indulgences. Believe me that you can feel horribly self-indulgent, like a megalomaniac, as a novel writer.
And the book world is one of megalomaniacs. You feel that you are working as a servant of your imagination, not a readership or a publisher. As the years go by, your work might not appeal at all to the readers who once did like it, but so it goes; half the fun is letting your imagination go where it wants.
You are probably thinking that I am automatically taking the stance here of a noble, puritanical and upright aesthete, sticking fast and faithfully to my imaginative guns and decrying such crass manoeuvres as say, genre writing — but I am not. Or a zombie novel! One thing I remember clearly is that after Morvern Callar was published I recognised I had a sort of choice. I do recall rapping myself on the knuckles and making a definite decision to plunge right in and forge ahead with another couple of books.
I kind of sensed I might freeze with stage fright otherwise. Their debut is so acclaimed it sort of freezes them into a difficult second album complex, they become terrifies that their next work might not meet the acclaim of the first and they often never make another good record, or take far too long to do it — I was a bit scared of that happening to me and elected to plunge straight back in with These Demented Lands.
On the other hand, this might just have been because I had found there was nothing else in life I could do to make a living — I am useless at everything else. Suddenly I discovered, to my shock, that I could write a book. Now, twenty years on, I am totally locked in to this writing life and it seems there is nothing else I can do? With the experience and success you have now as a writer, what advice would you give yourself then - before, during and after - writing your first novel?
Obviously the advice I would give my own idiotic self is very different from what I would recommend to other people. I suppose, before, writing my first novel - without trying to make out I am any big shakes - I would say to myself: have just a wee bit more confidence that your writing has some redeeming quality.
And it still feels like that with each new novel I write. There again, experience has also taught me that having too much confidence can be an awful thing for writers to have. I have met writers who carry their confidence around with them like a mighty catheter bag, gurgling away down their trouser leg or under their skirt.
During the writing of Morvern I would have told myself — if I could have financially afforded it - to go for the luxury of hiring a professional typist to do the so-called final draft manuscript, rather than doing it myself.
This was in , in the days of the dinosaurs, before computers and printers. And worse, every page was comprehensively caked in a palimpsest of Tippex correcting fluid and then swathes and splashings of Milk of Magnesia: I had discovered several layers of the Milk of Magnesia worked quite well as a cheap substitute for Tippex.
Sometimes there was no way you could re-type over a section of the Tippex-encrusted paper, which would audibly snap if you bent the page over the typewriter roller - so I had to type the word separately on another blank sheet, cut out the little rectangle of paper and affix the word in to the manuscript page using clear Sellotape.
It was more a work of sculpture than Fiction. Was there anyone in your personal life that inspired a particular character or character name in the book? There are contemporaries and relatives of mine who come from Oban, the same town I am from, which is basically the town I used as a jumping off point for my own fictional setting of The Port, and in reading Morvern Callar those people will just not recognise it as our town.
I was reading all that Sartre stuff intensely back then, What is Literature and is it called: What is Existentialism? Sartre said quite clearly that nothing gets beyond subjectivity. Look at witnesses to crimes, or battlefield descriptions. I was looking one way and some of my mates were looking the other way. All these great conundrums come up with ideas of realism in fiction.
You might start out with a detail that is based on someone you knew or saw in a small community like the one I came from, but then you plaster on a few more things that come from other people, then you change something else and it is no longer a portrait of anyone distinct. I mean, there might be anecdotes that happened to people in that novel, but they are all mixed up into differing times and places and rearranged and changed. I have forgotten the sources of a lot of the anecdotes.
Very few things in that book happened to me, some things happened to other people, lots of other people and a lot of things are made up. I understand why people ask that question about it being based on or a portrait of real individuals. I am not superior to that question myself. I want to know, in the most vulgar way, how much of Cornelius Suttree is Cormac McCarthy, or how much of Adolphe is Benjamin Constant, but none one of my novels, including Morvern Callar, is what I believe is called a roman a clef, when you basically write autobiography and just change the names.
It always strikes me as interesting that crime writers are never asked if they have actually murdered someone! You asked about names. Say you take that sequence when Morvern relates the nick names of all the characters that are in the Mantrap club or disco.
Those nick names serve an obvious narrative purpose to my mind — they make the social setting come alive in a small way, and those names tell us stories about the social environment.
I guess everywhere does, but on the west coast a lot of people share the same surnames, so there are lots of very inventive nick names flying about. Most of those ones in Morvern are just made up, some are nicknames maybe I heard in Inverness and Edinburgh or in Mallaig, where my sister lived then, maybe one or two did actually exist but they might have been private nick names, that just me and my mates applied to certain individuals.
I know I deliberately did not use a few nicknames I wanted to, as they were still definite figures about town or would have been remembered. Almost twenty years on, what do you think has become of Morvern herself? Probably married a Russian arms dealer? The characters are forever trapped in the amber of their time and setting - in paintings and in movies too. Heathcliff is forever grumping on the moors, Don Quixote is always riding out, across the horizon — every day — and they always will be for us, as long as we still open these books.
For me — in her modest way — Morvern is forever moving through the bright shadows of that Spanish orchard, in the last days of her happiness and youth. Were you unhappy with any of the changes that were made in the film adaptation? Filmmakers will do what they want.
When you sell the film rights to your book you pass it over to the people from the Silver Screen — god help you. She sent me all the screenplays as she worked on them. I really mean that - a genius. Wonderful, it was like a tone poem that film. I think she and Andrea Arnold are the two giant poets of British film just now. Interesting the two best filmmakers are women — and a good thing too. What are other folk doing? I mean really? And bad junk, not even good junk.
He makes completely different films from Lynne and Andrea, ones that people might try to label junk, but I love them. Neil is totally unfashionable but a brilliant, individual filmmaker. He seems to operate a bit outside of the golden circles of British film as well.
I felt that Lynne and company would do the right thing. And they did — that nightclub shot at the end still sends shivers down my spine just thinking about it. How do you show all that stuff cinematically without characters who constantly talk? But I would sooner have this film than some strident pop video with a corny voice over. Half the novel is missed out, but that film is still a ravishing, emotionally flooring experience.
Once Lynne was doing Morvern without voice-over, it was inevitably going to go somewhere new. Right now I hear she is doing an adaptation of Moby Dick set in outer space. It takes someone from Maryhill to make that! I loved that film of Morvern and it was great fun going up to Oban when they were making it, staying with Sam Morton - who was a whole load of fun - at the Isle of Eriska Hotel, where I emptied the wine cellar.
I always say this. If I saw that Morvern Callar movie when I was 21 years of age, I would have had a heart attack in the cinema. That is the film I dreamed of seeing when I was It was a French art movie, made in Oban!
To think that this somehow came about is still thrilling and it was a long bloody road to get that film made, from the first interest down to my wife and I at the Cannes film festival, drunk.
Strolling past palm trees and apartment complexes, along dusty streets, Warner is incongruous: a 6ft 3in Scottish novelist, too hot in the afternoon sun of this small Spanish resort town. The distractions are minimal. Warner peruses the drinks menu, contemplating whether the mojitos here could ever rival those consumed this past weekend at his 50th birthday celebrations in Benidorm. It has long been the custom that any journalistic profile of Warner must be laced with hard liquor.
Add to Cart About Morvern Callar Morvern Callar, a low-paid employee in the local supermarket in a desolate and beautiful port town in the west of Scotland, wakes one morning in late December to find her strange boyfriend has committed suicide and is dead on the kitchen floor. What she does next is even more appalling. Morvern is utterly hypnotizing from her very first sentence to her last. She rarely goes anywhere without the Walkman left behind as a Christmas present by her dead boyfriend, and as she narrates this strange story, she takes care to tell the reader exactly what music she is listening to, giving the stunning effect of a sound track running behind her voice. In much the same way that Patrick McCabe managed to tell an incredibly rich and haunting story through the eyes of an emotionally disturbed boy in The Butcher Boy, Alan Warner probes the vast internal emptiness of a generation by using the cool, haunting voice of a female narrator lost in the profound anomie of the ecstasy generation.
His parents were in their forties when he was born, and ran a coal delivery business in Mull , a shop in Kilchoan , and a small hotel in Oban, before in buying the bedroom Marine Hotel, close to Oban ferry terminal. He explained in an interview with the Scottish Review of Books in "I had presumed novels were an art form which only happened elsewhere and had died out in Scotland around the time of Walter Scott. What a very curious but genuine assumption. On the other hand, I could argue this was because local bookshops were stuffed with Scott and not a single work of modern Scottish literature. On his return to Scotland he studied at Glasgow University, where he wrote a dissertation on Joseph Conrad and the theme of suicide. He then spent some time participating in the Spanish rave scene, before working in Scotland as a train driver, musician, bouncer and barman. Adaptations of his work[ edit ] Morvern Callar has been adapted as a film , directed by Lynne Ramsay.