Francis Spufford
AUTHOR

Francis Spufford

Officially, I was a writer of non-fiction for the first half of my career, and I certainly enjoyed scraping up against the stubborn, resistant, endlessly interesting surface of the real world. I like awkwardness, things that don't fit, things that put up a struggle against being described. But when I was excited by what I was writing about, what I wanted to do with my excitement was always to tell a story. So every one of my non-fiction books borrowed techniques from the novel, and contained sections where I came close to behaving like a novelist. The chapter retelling the story of Captain Scott's last Antarctic expedition at the end of "I May Be Some Time", for example, or the thirty-page version of the gospel story in "Unapologetic". It wasn't a total surprise that in 2010 I published a book, "Red Plenty", which was a cross between fiction and documentary, or that afterwards I completed my crabwise crawl towards the novel with the honest-to-goodness entirely-made-up "Golden Hill". This was a historical novel about eighteenth century New York written like, well, an actual eighteenth century novel: hyperactive, stuffed with incident, and not very bothered about genre or good taste. It was elaborate, though. It was about exceptional events, and huge amounts of money, and good-looking people talking extravagantly in a special place. Nothing wrong with any of that: I'm an Aaron Sorkin fan and a Joss Whedon fan, keen on dialogue that whooshes around like a firework display. But those are the ingredients of romance, and there are other interesting things to tell stories about. My new book "Light Perpetual" (February 2021 in the UK, May 2021 in the US) is deliberately plainer. It's about five twentieth century lives – the lives that five London children might have had, if they hadn't been killed in 1944 by a V2 landing on a branch of Woolworths where their mothers were shopping for saucepans. I follow Ben and Alec and Jo and Val and Vern onwards through the decades, catching up with them for a day every fifteen years as they pass through the stages of adulthood and the city changes around them; and changes again; and changes again, this being an era of endless metamorphosis. It's a book dedicated to the proposition that there aren't any ordinary lives. It's a book about how we live in time. Biography: I was born in 1964, the child of two historians. I'm married to an Anglican priest, I have two daughters, and I teach writing at Goldsmiths College, London, just next door to the place where a V2 fell on a branch of Woolworths.
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