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    Dear Jonathan,

    I’m in my final year at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge and am at the early stages of writing a dissertation on your work. Although I don’t have a clear direction yet, something I am very interested in is the idea of the intrusive narrator. You mention on the page about The Accidental Woman that your postgraduate thesis was on intrusive narrators in Fielding. Might it be possible for me to get hold of a copy of this? – Or would it be more productive to contact Warwick University directly?

    You also mentioned in an interview with Philip Tew (in Writers Talk: Conversations with Contemporary British Novelists, 2008) that you began The Accidental Woman after discovering Johnson and Gray and because of this you abandoned the novel you had been previously working on after 300-400 pages. I’m really curious to know what that earlier novel was like, how different it was to your later work – or was it just for the sake of brevity that you started anew?

    Thanks in advance for any answers you can give! And thanks also for so many brilliant, engaging novels, and for introducing me to the work of B.S. Johnson.

    Anna/Bine the Peg


    Dear Anna

    Many thanks for your message. It’s good to have my memory jogged about these early literary efforts of mine.

    As far as I recall, there were three copies made of my doctoral thesis, entitled Satire and Sympathy: Some Consequences of Intrusive Narration in Tom Jones and Other Comic Novels. One is in my study and sits beside me as I type this: the other two were deposited at Warwick University and the British Library I believe, so you ought to be able to find them there. It talks not just about Fielding but also Sterne, Beckett, Swift, Dickens and others. (The last chapter goes a bit crazy and starts comparing Tom Jones to Scorsese’s Taxi Driver – don’t ask …)

    As for the novel I abandoned to start The Accidental Woman, the MS still exists. It was called Paul’s Dance, which is the title of a little tune by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra (I was fond of naming novels after pieces of music at the time – something I returned to in The Rain Before It Falls). As far as I can remember, it was about the friendship between two Cambridge undergraduates who had also been schoolfriends: it was mainly set in Birmingham during a long summer vacation. There was a lengthy sequence where they rented a Scottish holiday cottage together. Can’t remember much else – I must dig it out and look at it. There is another unpublished novel from this time, and a children’s book (which has recently morphed into Lo Specchio dei Desideri) and lots of Cambridge-set short stories.

    Good luck with your dissertation. If you want to ask me anything more directly about any of this, you can email me directly c/o Peake Associates.

    Best wishes

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