Thursday, July 5, 2012

More than a book, it's a feeling - Kirsty Gunn's The Big Music launched

"The hills only come back the same: I don’t mind, and all the flat moorland and the sky. I don’t mind they say, and the water says it too, those black falls that are rimmed with peat, and the mountains in the distance to the west say it, and to the north . . . As though the whole empty wasted lovely space is calling back at him in the silence that is around him, to this man out here in the midst of it, in the midst of all these hills and all the air. That his presence means nothing, that he could walk for miles into these same hills, in bad weather or in fine, could fall down and not get up again, could go crying into the peat with music for his thoughts maybe, and ideas for a tune, but none of it according him a place here, amongst the grasses and the water and the sky . . . Still it would come back to him the same in the silence, in the fineness of the air . . . I don’t mind, I don’t mind, I don’t mind. 
"Is what there is to begin with, a few words and the scrap of a tune put down for the back of the book in some attempt to catch the opening of the thing, how it might start. With this image of a man, born 83 years ago down out of these same hills, and how he might think now how the land doesn’t mind him, never has. Here he is walking in up the strath towards that far bend in the river and the loudest note could sound in his head and him follow it with a sequence and still this country, his country, would keep its own stillness and only give back to him the louder quiet, like the name of the tune itself could be I don’t mind, is what he’ll call it, ‘Lament for Himself’.[1]"

Extract from The Big Music by Kirsty Gunn, launched this month. 
Kirsty Gunn's fifth novel The Big Music (Faber) was launched in London last night after an earlier Dundee launch. A kiwi by birth and upbringing, and a fellowVictoria University student/debater/Bill Manhire Original Composition classmate, Kirsty lives in both those places now - England and Scotland, and the book is set in its own landscape of music and rhythm and language and the Scottish Highlands.

It is more than a book, too, this book -- it is the inspiration for the film made by Gary M Gowers, for the 'Pebroch' bagpipe music written by her father (heard on the film), for an art installation created by her sister Merran. Hear Kirsty and Merran and Gary talking about the project below. For more on Kirsty, her book events, a longer extract from her book go here. If you're pondering whether or not to investigate this book further. Read the reviews below. I am in no doubt that as with her other novels, The Big Music is more than a book, it is a feeling, a thing, an experience.

“More than a dappled tale, an allegory, or history, The Big Music is a landscape; a work of longing fragments that collect on a journey and grow to light lands before, around, and after them. It’s a hike that makes us feel not so much Scotland as Scottish, and whose flavours, like the title’s theme, cannot be made small. Haunting and spacious.”dbc Pierre, author of  the Man Booker prize winning Vernon God Little
“I emerged from The Big Music blown away by the pulse and force of such fearless writing. It is beautiful, powerful work. Gunn has written to a rhythm and not to a plot – as Virginia Woolf urges – and she has written a landscape I didn’t want to leave. Gunn terrain! How deeply I love this book, a magnificent tour de force.” Jane Goldman, General Editor of the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Virginia Woolf. 

"Kirsty Gunn has set herself a fearsome task. Writing about music, which lies at the heart of this "novel" (the quote marks are hers), is so difficult that almost everyone who tries, fails. And hers is a music which many find inaccessible, and some have never even heard of: the piobaireachd, the formal music of the Highland bagpipes. To take that, and to show us at its heart a love-song and a lullaby: she is a brave woman even to try.

The result isn't what you'd call a success; not even a qualified success. The result is a masterpiece. Gunn solves the problem she has set herself, not by writing about the music but, by some strange meticulous magic, writing within it." Michael Bywater, The Independent 7/7/12

1 comment:

Michelle Elvy said...

AWESOME. Adding it to my list of things I need to read... :)