Interview: Miles Gibson
On the day that we begin our ebook reissues of the novels of Miles Gibson we are delighted to have coaxed the reclusive author to answer a few questions for us.
So, your 2004 novel, Einstein, is reissued as an ebook this week. What are your memories of writing that book? Are they fond ones?
Yes, Einstein remains a favourite of mine. I’d always wanted to write a novel about an environmental doomsday and it amused me to suppose that if aliens arrived on Earth they might disregard Man and favour another species for salvation. So it was going to be science fiction, I suppose, which is something I hadn’t tried before, and a story about conservation, which has always been close to my heart, but then I couldn’t resist taking a poke at the contemporary art market, factory farming, the cult of motherhood and a dozen other targets that came crowding into the book while I was working on it.
In Einstein, Charlie is given the chance to save himself from the imminent destruction of the Earth if he can prove that he has performed one worthwhile act in his life. What act would you put top of your list of worthwhile ones?
I’ve planted trees.
More than one online mention of your good self describes you as a recluse. Is this true? If so, why?
I was struck down with stage fright at an early age and grew up to be tongue-tied in interviews and public events. I was never a social animal. Other people worried me. So writing seemed like the perfect occupation for someone obliged to be content with his own company. I can keep myself amused for days.
The worlds of advertising and marketing crop up in several of your novels. I know you worked in advertising in your younger days. What is it about that often derided industry that appeals to you as a novelist?
Advertising taught me brevity. A great virtue in a writer.
Kat, co-founder of Abandoned Bookshop, is a big wrestling fan and wrestling pays an important part in Mr Romance, another of your novels that we are reissuing. So, on Kat's behalf, who is your favourite wrestler and why?
Bad boy Fit Finlay (now signed to the WWE in the USA) was my favourite grappler in the old Saturday afternoon Kent Walton grunt-and-groan days. He really knew how to work the audience. Masked marauder Jushin Thunder Liger was my favourite ring warrior on All Japan Pro Wrestling while Chris ‘the Crippler’ Benoit, Cactus Jack, Shawn Michaels, the Undertaker and Bret Hart were favourites on the WWE circuit a few years ago. My favourite tag team has always been the Steiner Brothers, Scott and Rick were classic mat technicians.
Is it true that you are creating artworks using the pages of old copies of your books?
It’s true. Writers inevitably find themselves with spare copies of their old books and I wanted to recycle mine as new work. So I dismantled them, reworked each page with coloured inks, comic book speech balloons and vintage collage scraps, creating palimpsests and fresh interpretations of the text, turning them into postcards. So the books have been reincarnated as hundreds of new small artworks.
And what can you tell us about your series of leporellos?
The leporellos actually evolved from the postcard project. Linking the treated pages together as paper concertinas the postcards became books again, slim handmade volumes, making fresh connections.
What are you working on at the moment?
My latest book is an imaginary encyclopaedia called Welcome to Earth just now being crowdfunded by the publisher Unbound. The work is a fantastic reference book, with an entirely fanciful taxonomy, anatomy, astrology, history and many other strange delights, complete with my own collage illustrations. It’s great fun. But as a work of fictitious non-fiction it’s very difficult to describe.
And finally, we ask all our guests to recommend a neglected, forgotten or unsung book that they'd like more people to be reading. What do you suggest?
The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz.