Friday, 29 March 2013

Ros Barber

CALL me old fashioned but I'm inclined to think that the plays we think of as being written by William Shakespeare were, in fact, written by a jobbing actor and son of Stratford glovemaker called, er, William, er, Shakespeare.

Ros Barber does not think that. Ros Barber thinks that there is at least a good chance that they were the work of another playwright. The work of Dr Fautus author Christopher Marlowe in fact, and it's this idea that provides the propulsion behind her WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR LITERATURE nominated novel THE MARLOWE PAPERS. But, actually, the real authorship of the Shakespeare's plays is hardly the point. THE MARLOWE PAPERS is first and foremost a great story. A thriller even. A man - a drinker, a lover, a fighter, a spy - fakes his death and goes on the run, changing his identity... This is classic thriller territory and the fact that it is written in verse doesn't detract from that.

A novel about a linguistically gifted, shape-shifter and risk-taker should be linguistically and thematically daring itself, shouldn't it. The iambic doesn't interfere with the story-telling, quite the opposite. Given the seventeenth century setting and the florid personalities of the protagonists it seems entirely fitting and gives the work a depth most writers couldn't begin to manage. Ros is a poet with several highly regarded collections behind her and to deny herself use of these gifts in her debut novel, would seem perverse.

So a great and provocative book and some great and provocative answers below. (Oh and my favourite Shakespeare 'fact' is that his dad made a lot of his money from the manufacture of reusable condoms made of kidskin)

 Can I have you autobiography in EXACTLY 50 words (not 51, not 49)?

Born in the States, raised (or depressed) in Essex, Brighton adoptee.
First class Biology and EngLit degrees; latterly MA and PhD.  Two
poetry collections (Anvil). Four offspring.  Author of verse novel The
Marlowe Papers, winner of the 2011 Hoffman Prize, long listed for the
Women’s Fiction Prize (formerly Orange) 2013.

> Why should people read your THE MARLOWE PAPERS?

To find out what all the fuss is about. And because it's not as scary
as it sounds.  People courageous enough to face their fear report
forgetting the layout and finding themselves gripped by the narrative.
It's a historical thriller full of sword-fighting, cross-dressing and
sex.  A cross between Wolf Hall and James Bond.  And much more

> What is your most pressing concern right this minute?

Saving the molar that my dentist yesterday pronounced 'doomed'.  And
finding a cheap flight to Washington for a conference that will still
allow me flexible return dates in case I'm called back for something
I'm not yet allowed to speak about.

> How is being a woman who writes different from being a man who writes?

You have to work harder to prove you're serious.  You're more likely
prickle at terms like 'poetESS'.  If the house looks a mess after
you've been buried in your study for ten hours it is deemed your
fault. Your children don't understand why they don't see much of you.
Men are a little scared of you. You have one extra major literary
prize in your sights than a man has.

> Who - in life or writing - do you most admire?

Absolutely anyone who follows their dreams, commits, burns the
lifeboats.  Writing-wise - on numerous fronts and for different
reasons - Hilary Mantel and Will Self.  Both are amazingly talented
novelists, and both were extremely kind to me when it really mattered.

> Why do we need the Women's Prize for Literature?

Because otherwise men (and also women) tend not to notice how
brilliant women are.  Because women make up the majority of fiction
readers, and deserve access to a list of fiction that other women have
loved.  And, from my own experience, because all-women judging panels
can clearly be more courageous and visionary than mixed ones!

> Would you eat a mucky fat sandwich?
Only if my life (or the life of a loved one) depended on it.

> What will the next book be about? (does it have a title yet?)

Ten years from now, when Richard Dawkins is dead and revered as a God,
a psychologist assessing a woman accused of murdering atheists must
decide whether religious fundamentalism is a form of insanity.

> If you could be anywhere right now, it would be....?

In a shady hammock overlooking a blue sea and deserted white sand
beach in Tobago.

> Tell me something I don't know

I have a certificate in Apiary Management from Plumpton Agricultural College.

THE MARLOWE PAPERS is published by Sceptre and available in all the usual places. You know what to do...

1 comment:

  1. The Marlowe Papers simmers, sizzles and seethes with great writing. No 'position' on the 'authorship question' necessary. I read it as 'What if?' fiction, (I think the posh term for this is 'Speculative') and loved it. Marlowe is a very, very naughty man....enjoy!