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Paul Driver Interview

Paul Driver

Paul Driver was born in Manchester in 1954. He went to Salford Grammar and Oxford University, where he started to read Music but quickly abandoned it to study English Literature. He has worked for the Financial Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Boston Globe as music critic, and since 1985 has been music critic for the Sunday Times. He edited a volume of Kipling short stories, A Diversity of Creatures, (Penguin) and a collection of essays on Music and Text, (Harwood Academic Publishers). In 1996 Picador published Manchester Pieces, a book of stories and essays, ‘or essays that turn into stories’, he says, ‘a book meant as an integral whole and a kind of fictionalized autobiography.’ He has recently completed a novel, ‘New Diary Of A Nobody.’

I started writing in early adolescence: poetry inspired by Michael Roberts’ Faber Book of Modern Verse and by the work of an older schoolfriend, which I’d seen in school magazines and desperately needed to emulate. The poetry went on for a long time but remained a pretty private affair.

Writing student essays turned imperceptibly into the way I made my living- reviewing to deadline. I always wanted to make the essay more creative. I’ve been moving steadily from the abstract to the concrete- from music to poetry to essay to essay-story and now to outright fiction.
Manchester Pieces
by Paul Driver
ISBN: 033034563X

I never sent my work out into the world The publisher came to me. He had heard about the Manchester Pieces project through a mutual friend and sent me an enquiry in a letter addressed to the Sunday Times- which I nearly threw away with a sheaf of press releases.

I was in the bath the moment the publisher rang to tell me he’d liked the chapters I’d shown him and was offering me a contract. I finished the book in a few months after that (I’d been working on it for five years.)

Wordsworth’s The Prelude is the book of books for me. Nabokov when I was writing Manchester Pieces, because of his Speak, Memory! Which is like Paradise Lost in prose. TS Eliot, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth….

My publisher wasn’t happy with an early draft of my second book, the novel, and this bothered me a great deal. I embarked on a series of substantial revisions, all for the good, but the book’s fate- a seven year project- remains uncertain…

What excites me is the vision of a possible new thing to make. The gradual awareness that what had initially seemed impossible is in fact do-able and will resolve into a set of finite tasks, this keeps me going. As well as the sheer enjoyment of manipulating words - shaping a text becomes more addictive the further in you get.

The worst thing about writing is the periodic crushing awareness that words have got the better of you, and always will. The discovery that what you put on the page just isn’t there. Plus the awful habit computers have of suddenly cutting out and taking your words with them, which in fact just happened.

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