This is the Way: Gavin Corbett’s Photo Sketchbook, a set on Flickr.
Here Gavin Corbett introduces This is the Way and writes about the inspiration and influences behind the novel which has already attracted so much praise. Corbett’s photographs of Dublin can be seen in the above slideshow.
I remember well the moment I first heard Anthony Sonaghan, the narrator of my novel This Is the Way. I’d written to Pavee Point, the campaigning group for Irish Travellers, requesting information, and had got some printed leaflets in return, plus a short handwritten note. I say “remember well”, but then I don’t remember what I’d written to Pavee Point about (something, I’m sure, to do with a newspaper article; I wrote a bit of journalism at the time), nor do I remember what the words in the handwritten note actually said.
That’s not important, though, I don’t think. What is important is that there was something about that note that put a riff or a figure or a sound in my head. Hard to describe, really; hard to say ‘waltz’, or ‘Satie’, or ‘Stockhausen’, or ‘freeform jazz’, or ‘dak dak dak dak dadada dak’. What I heard – and I mean really heard, loudly, in a way that’s rare, for me, when I read – was sort of a drone, but a broken-up sort of drone, with kind of… kind of… Yes, as I say, hard to put into words. This is a familiar feeling. I think I prefer to say things using words, rather than say things in words, if you know what I mean.
From that moment it was a case of finding the right words to scan with this noise. This isn’t to say that I didn’t care about the meaning of the words. I just felt that as long as I trusted my ear, and listened to this voice that was starting to form, the words would say something. At that stage, I knew I wanted to write about a person who couldn’t find his place in the world, and I knew that some of the raw material – in the form of knowledge I already had, feelings I already had – was there inside me.
There were many influences and stimuli, of course. Photography, or rather Dublin, was one: I became obsessed with wandering around my malty, salty native city with my crappy plastic film cameras. Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban, which I first encountered in 2006, showed me how a great voice novel should read. I remember slowly digesting James Kelman’s How Late It Was, How Late over a fortnight in Castres, France, and hoping some of it would be assimilated into my cells.
Lessons, I think, were also learnt from William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, the Mike Leigh film Naked, and the website of a Dublin impresario called Aidan ‘Master of the Universe’ Walsh. In March 2010, around the time I began writing This Is the Way, I read again the blood-spattered Jack the Ripper letters. These were written almost certainly not by the murderer but by a mystery puckish journalist with an amazing gift for voice that was well ahead of its time.
Everything, though, started with that note from Pavee Point.
And so. I hope I’ve done a decent job. I’ll leave it for the reader to judge. But if I have just one wish for my novel, it’s that it sounds good.