Saturday, February 12, 2011

Nick and Nick

To the IABF once more for the latest in their literary event series. The subject this week was Nicholas Royle, together with Nicholas Royle. Royle mark 1 is an academic, the co-author of the very successful undergraduate text An Introduction to Literature Criticism and Theory, and the sole author of The Uncanny. He is also, and this was one of the main impulses for the event, the author of an intriguing new novel, Quilt. This new work gained laudatory reviews from some very important people, including Cixous and Kermode, so this is clearly a major work. T'other Royle is the Mancunian short story writer and novelist who also teaches Creative Writing at MMU. He is also the publisher of beautifully produced chapbooks from The Nightjar Press. I have admired his short stories in the past, and very much enjoyed his reading at an Edge Hill conference on the short story a few years ago. Our paths have crossed professionally too, when he was the external on a PhD viva. This Royle has developed a line in rather chilling, discomforting prose, with a dash of the surreal. Uncannily, the other Royle has similar tastes.
Obviously, the two Royles are frequently confused. What I didn't know until this event was that Nick Royle the academic had written about Nick Royle the novelist, and had delivered a conference paper about him. This was at a University of London conference, and the two of them had arranged to meet there, but in a kind of publicly theatrical way. Nick mark 1 delivered the paper, and then stepped down from the platform, shook hands with Nick mark 2, who stepped up to take questions on his own novel. An uneasy silence ensued...
Of course, the two Royles are inextricably entwined. Look on a book site and you'll see there's no discriminating between the two. The Manchester Nick mentioned that, at the Cheltenham Festival, he'd done a talk and then was invited to sign books, many of which were - well, you fill in the rest. The Sussex Royle has a short story in the other Royle's new anthology, and so the seeds for more confusion are being planted there too. To digress briefly, congratulations to Edge Hill student Claire Massey on being included in Nick's new Best of British collection, where she finds herself in the company of Hilary Mantel among others.
The IABF event was well-attended, and the format of alternating Royles reading from their work made for a lively opening half. They then had an informal chat, and took questions before signing their (own) books.  Despite the frequently rather dark materials of the respective writers' work, the evening was light-hearted and very enjoyable. As always at the IABF, a good few friends and acquaintances were present as well.
We came away with a copy of The Uncanny and The Matter of the Heart, which will be the first in what I expect will be a Nicholas Royle reading marathon, of both flavours.

2 comments:

Gareth Farmer said...

Thanks for the write-up, Rob. I'm a big fan of (Sussex's) Prof. Nick Royle's work. Wish I could have been there.
With best,
Gareth

Rob Spence said...

Cheers Gareth. It was a very pleasant occasion, and Prof Nick's novel seems like a very intriguing piece.