Smash Lits with Robert Williams

1)What is your favourite tree?

The one on Corkland Road in Chorlton, outside our old flat. I have no idea what type it was but it was very big.

2) Do you know anyone called Tarquin?

I’ve met one Tarquin. Years ago my band came down to London to do a showcase for record companies. Hardly anyone showed up but a man called Tarquin from Universal, or somewhere like that, came in the room and sat down. We played three songs and then he left. He never said a word. He was wearing pink socks. I still find myself wondering what Tarquin might be up to these days.

3) You are wallpaper. What is your pattern?

Horizontal stripes. Red, yellow and blue. Classy.

4) What is your default pub drink?

Beer

5) What was the last text you sent?

‘Just seen that Mark bloke from the Essex programme at the station.’

6) What colour is Wednesday?

Purple.

7) What is your favourite swear word?

Fuck.

8) Do you believe human beings can spontaneously combust?

Absolutely they can.

9) Bacon VS Tofu – who wins? Why?

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I’m very disappointed with myself that I’m not vegetarian. Bacon wins but morally tofu wins.

10) What is your funeral song?

I don’t want any songs, I don’t want anything to drown out the hysterical mourning. But if forced, to really bring people to their knees, I want three – Atmosphere, Joy Division into Bridge over Trouble Water, Simon and Garfunkel, into Do You Realize?? The Flaming Lips. That should do it.

11) Did you have an invisible friend?

I think I tried but then Phil would knock at the door and we’d go and play football instead.

12) What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

Lord of the Dance by Michael Flatley. Look at the cover!  On slow afternoons we used to read passages to each other in the bookshop.

 I’m unfamiliar with that, but it looks like maybe there’s an updated version due

13) What’s your favourite sweet?

I don’t like sweets. I don’t understand why anyone with taste buds would. Have they not heard of curry?

14) Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

I’ve given this question a lot of thought. Old Neighbours – Daphne. Current Neighbours – I don’t know her name in Neighbours but she used to be Sophie in Home and Away. My girlfriend is obsessed with Australian soaps – I only ever glance you understand, too busy writing.

Ah, you mean the lovely Rebekah Elmaloglou. And Daphne? Daphne?

15) How do you organise your bookshelves?

We’ve only just got shelves fitted after years of books in boxes. I just fling them on there. I used to work in a bookshop, so it feels good to break the rules. Also, you don’t want people thinking you’re fussy.

16) Can you make up a poem about trees

Yes – Look at that tree standing there. What a big, tall bastard.

Marvelous. 

17) What sandwiches would you make for a picnic in the forest with Margaret Atwood?

This feels like a trick question. I wouldn’t make any sandwiches. I feel like whatever I did I would disappoint Margaret Atwood.

18) Do you have any writing rituals?

I don’t.

19) Who is your writer crush?

Wells Tower, Kent Haruf, Claire Keegan, Ali Smith, David Almond, Kazuo Ishiguro, Marilynne Robinson, Anne Tyler, Roddy Doyle.

20) What question should I have asked you?

This one. (sorry)

 

You can read my review of Robert’s terrific new novel here and were you to need any further persuasion may I draw your attention to:

‘Now and then I encounter a novel that carries me so completely inside its own world that I wake the next day expecting to find myself there. INTO THE TREES, by Robert Williams, is exactly that sort of novel—lyrical, sharply observed, with the punch of myth and plenty of drive.’
Daniel Woodrell
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Into the Trees by Robert Williams

Into The Trees by Robert Williams

When their apparently healthy baby won’t stop crying and they have exhausted all the usual solutions, sleep deprived parents Thomas and Ann become desperate. By chance, Thomas discovers that if he takes Harriet into Bleasdale forest she calms. Raymond, a giant of a man who works as a farm hand, walks the forest at night, glad to escape his damp smothered home in Etherton. Keith goes to the forest for entirely different reasons. From each of their perspectives Williams shows how their lives become entangled.

I worried at the start that there’d be some mystical forces at play, but thankfully no, this is a very real story, shot through with William’s customary insight into the human condition. Unexpected strands are brought in and woven seamlessly into the narrative. Williams does a grand job describing Ann’s first love and the passion that’s missing from her marriage. It was Raymond and his awkwardness who captured my heart though. I know a Raymond or two, and the author’s understanding of what it is to be an outsider, what it’s like to feel so alien in the world, is quite special.

It’s a terrific exploration of fear in many of its guises. There’s no fussy writing here, just clean, clear prose. Williams’s best novel yet.