Learning My Place
I’ve made no secret I have something of a man crush on Adam Nevill. Or rather, on his writing. Anyone who hasn’t read Banquet for the Damned, Apartment 16 or The Ritual is really doingthemselves a disservice. His writing is visceral in a way I can only hope o imitate, and if the world is just he will become recognised as one of those writers whom the literati pretend don’t exist because it negates their arguments that genre authors can’t write.
Anyway, he has a new novel coming out next month, and the reviews I’ve read so far say Last Days is one step ahead of his last The Ritual. If this is true I’m going to be a happy (and scared) reader. So to warm myself up I went looking for some interviews with Nevill, and as i so often do after reading writers such as him or China Mieville express their thoughts, I come away feeling stupid. How could I ever hope to emulate such a talented writer, and who am I to presume to even try?
Well I try because I’m too hard headed not to, and I always like it when I think I’m pissing someone, somewhere, off.
Anyway, please share my excitement. Here’s a portion of the interview with Nevill from the fine people over at Spooky-Reads.com.
You’ve talked elsewhere about the real and perceived threat of physical violence present in society today, in other interviews, the nature of the Anglo Saxon condition. Here in the forest in The Ritual you still have a micro-culture represented, and despite ‘friends’ together, violence propagating. Luke clearly has anger management (amongst other issues) but do you see the violence a product of our times – impatience/instant reaction without thought – or as stemming from deeper cultural/atavistic seat?
A good question, and a big one. Violence is ever present, as is its potential to explode. Its causes are manifold. Its seat is embedded in human nature; we weaned ourselves on the genocide of other primates. Our continuing propensity for violence demotes us, in my opinion, down the hierarchy of the animal kingdom.
I think it’s why my stories stray into anthropomorphism and animism, because it’s a good way of depicting our grotesqueness. And there are so many circumstances that still seem to provoke violence; in fact, wherever more than one person gathers, it’s possible. And when we’re alone, even suicide and self-harm are possible.
We are assaulted for being young, old, attractive, unattractive, for being male or female, for leaving the house at the wrong time, for being black, brown and white; we’re assaulted because we have what someone else wants, we’re assaulted for being strangers, we’re assaulted because someone is frustrated, or angry, or aroused and derives pleasure from our distress, we’re assaulted because we are defenceless, or because Rangers loose to Celtic, or we’re at home when someone wants our laptop … and on and on and on.
How can we ever get to the bottom of this? A significant portion of humanity either has no conscience, or easily suppresses it. Another portion doesn’t think about consequences and seems to commit it out of recreation or a perverse sense of revenge for being disrespected. Yet another believes anything is justifiable in the pursuit of its self-interest. Another significant section was brutalised in childhood. For others it becomes the focus of their territorial and caste culture. Or, it can be a form of status. It goes on and on. The reasons for it are manifold.
Throughout history, the educated and civilised have also thrown their hat into the ring, repeatedly; invested and intellectualised their frustrations into scapegoats, demonised them and slaughtered them on grand scale. The ordinary will become complicit in political murder from behind a desk to maintain their position within a hierarchy. Violence becomes the discourse too easily, is almost legitimised around alcohol. There is a terrible irrational momentum in humanity that seems too easily roused, especially in group dynamics.
I’ve dealt with only a few areas of violence, for instance in Apartment 16 where it is recreational and random and unpredictable in modern Britain where repressed hostility is loosened so quickly by alcohol. A few years ago in a pub near where I live, a man was murdered inside the bar for complaining about another patron smoking a joint; eighteen people were arrested for the killing. We see the stats, but can you imagine the savagery in a supposedly civilised country? Eighteen people destroyed a stranger with their hands and feet. Even in Norway, the show home of the West, a subculture of young people murdered each other, then strangers randomly, and burned churches in the nineties.
From the streets and wars of the first world to genocide in the developing world; humanity is a force of violence. I’m speaking out loud and shouldn’t have to remind anyone of this. After all, tragically, it could probably be argued that human rights are a minority interest for the west. When will we evolve?
I think, increasingly, we also live in pathological times here in the west and that’s what feeds my concepts as a writer: a competitive, time-pressured, having-it-all culture driven by greed, resentment, and the show of me. There is something particularly vulpine and petulant about the violence that comes from it – whether it’s a woman scarring another for life with a champagne flute, or teenagers killing one of their peers who looked in their direction or allegedly said something to someone else etc..
The predictability is tedious. Doesn’t seem to take much provocation these days for someone to lose an eye, or worse. I’ve always thought it was a last resort to be pulled out when your own life was in genuine danger. Apparently not. And I’ll clearly never run out of material because of it. I sometimes wonder why all books aren’t about violence? And yet writing about the horrors of violence is most often seen as trite, or low brow. Well, as a species we are mostly trite and low brow.