Saturday, 16 April 2011

Cambridge Wordfest - Andre Mangeot and Vanessa Gebbie

André Mangeot and Vanessa Gebbie guested in a session entitled "Transcending Borders – The Lure of the Short Story" (An exploration of the short story in its various guises: What is a story? When does a story become a poem or a novel? Are there really any boundaries when creating fiction, or are they invented by the market?)

André wrote 2 unpublished novels before having success with short stories and poetry. He said he'd not read much Flash, but that his poetry (which tended to be narrative) was rather Flashy. He's currently completing a novel. Vanessa started with Flash and short stories, but has had poems shortlisted in the Bridport and is having a novel published by Bloomsbury next year. The chapters of her novel kept turning into stories. She's spent a lot of the last year uncurling them, straightening them out.

Both read from their recent story collections. André said that his stories kept wanting to grow into novellas. Both the extracts he read had atmospheric, foreign settings. He admitted that Greene was an influence. Vanessa read a complete story. One gets the feeling that word-count is more of an issue to her. When a detail's mentioned in her work (in this story, the Librarian's name) one senses that it will be relevant later, that it's not just scene-setting.

They saw similarities in each other's work, how characters often weren't settled in their surroundings. André mentioned that he ventures into situations that are disquieting. Vanessa said that she had an "odd beginning" (adopted at birth) and sympathized with people trying to find their place. I read recently that in dreams, Water signifies "state of mind". All the pieces mentioned water. In Vanessa's piece, brown water was coming out of an immigrant's taps until an anonymous donation cured it. Water was purified by a tablet in one of André's pieces. In the other a storm had broken and rain was flooding a city.

I wrote down 2 quotes

  • you don't have to know your character, you wait for them to reveal themselves (Vanessa)
  • the real music is out there, where silence and solitude are (from a story by André quoted by Vanessa)

Audience questions dealt largely with differences between novels, stories, etc. Someone pointed out that short stories can lead to good films, which is a route that both the authors would be interested in. The hour whizzed by.

1 comment:

  1. Hey that was quick! It was lovely to finally meet you today, Tim. Thank you for giving up the opportunity to spend hundreds of squid on a weekend at Centre Parcs, and coming to the Word Fest instead. And thank you for a smashing impromptu guided tour of the city. An abiding memory will be you pointing at an old bit of church wall and saying sagely - 'this is an old bit...' (!) It was a smashing day.