Thursday, October 29, 2015
Award-winning Australian novelist Steven Carroll at Tauranga Arts Festival - October 31
Award-winning Australian novelist Steven Carroll (left credit Sophie Bassouls) appears at the Tauranga Arts Festival on October 31 (11.30am, in conversation with Harry Ricketts) and November 1 (1pm, with Harry Ricketts talking to Joseph Romanos about cricket).
Tickets $15 (day pass $45) at the door, from Baycourt theatre (Tauranga) or ticketek.co.nz.
All writer events are in the Pacific Crystal Palace on The Strand.
The poetry of TS Eliot may not be preferred reading for most teenage boys but for Steven Carroll it was a life-changing moment. “All I was interested in doing was playing cricket,” the Melbourne resident says. “All my spare time was spent trying to bowl the fastest ball I could either in the nets or on the pitch. I wasn’t a great reader until I was about 19.
“My brother was home from university and I picked up one of his exotic-looking books and read Eliot’s poem The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock. I was 16 and full of adolescent anxiety and this was my poem, just like when you hear the Beatles’ Please Please Me for the first time you think, ‘yeah, this is my music’.
“Eliot had a hell of lot of A-side singles.”
Carroll also spent much of his young adult life involved with music – and still regrets selling his Rickenbacker guitar “like the one John Lennon and George Harrison played”.
“I was working fulltime as a teacher while I was involved with the bands which meant I was a very poor teacher,” he says. “I don’t think I taught one valuable lesson.”
After a stint in an Eagles cover band he started writing lyrics and formed his own band. “I had a great time but had left it too late, I was 29, and writing was calling.”
He finished a collection of short stories – 14 years later published as his first novel Remember Me, Jimmy James. “I was almost resigned to never being published,” he says, “but I would have kept writing regardless.
“Actually, the first thing I ever wrote was a play about Eliot and his disastrous marriage which was taken up by a Melbourne theatre company. Unfortunately, word came through that a play on the same theme was going on in London [Tom and Viv by Michael Hastings] so plans for my play were dumped.
“But I knew I wanted to write more about Eliot and so now I’m older I thought I would go to the older Eliot.”
Carroll is taking each poem in Eliot’s Four Quartets series as an inspiration for a novel and has published two books, both featuring Eliot as a character – The Lost Life (2009) and A World of Other People, which was the co-winner of last year’s Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction.
Recently in Boston and Cambridge in the United States on a research trip for his third book, Carroll was following Eliot’s trail in New England (summer holidays) and at Harvard university.
“He had such a fantastic imagination and craft who puts the rest of his contemporaries in the shade. It hasn’t been hard to be inspired by his work.”