Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Great Interviews of the 20th Century - Ronnie Kerrigan discusses his novel: Sink

This is an edited version of Ronnie Kerrigan's interview with Tanya Shepherd, first published in Dogs Monthly, November 22, 1996

Tanya Shepherd:  What influenced you to pursue writing as a career?
Ronnie Kerrigan:  Basically, I'm an exhibitionist with nothing worthwhile to exhibit. I'm totally devoid of literary, or poetic talent. Anyone who ever read my printed work would be painfully aware of this fact.

What's the best advice you have ever been given?
Don't move or I'll shoot.

Your parents were schoolteachers. Did this have any particular influence?
I remember our home was covered in books. Roof tiles would have been more effective. I believe they would have prevented the rain encroaching and soaking our clothes, beds and watering down our food. Of course, it was a household full of readers. One day I counted twenty five, and I didn't know a single person.

Were your family energetic and battling people?
My mother was highly energetic both physically and mentally. She was a marvellous pianist. I remember sitting in the living room listening to her playing Chopin. My father would simultaneously perform a clog dance dressed as Charlie Chaplin in the same room. I believe out of spite, perhaps jealousy. He felt eclipsed by my mother's creativity, and her ability to eat home-made ginger biscuits without a sudden need to use the bathroom.

What was your relationship with your father? I believe he had numerous affairs.
How much was reality or fantasy is anyone's guess? He carried a candle for years for a woman younger than my mother. Undeniably this played havoc when he was washing, eating, or driving. I don't believe the candle was returned to the young woman.

Your father started writing seriously while in jail. Did that influence you to write?
Perhaps. My father had a terrible fear of silence. Anything motionless such as a full moon, a mist, a pool of water, a quiet asthmatic, could light his short fuse. He was jailed for impersonating a menu at The Grill at the Dorchester in London and shouting at diners, 'Chips with everything.' He wrote a novel while incarcerated titled Love: The Beginning of Suffering. It was never published.

It was considered too credible, absurd, yet devastatingly truthful. He felt that woman were superior to men in all aspects of life. Anyway, one has to sell, promote and market oneself. My father didn't have the energy to perform with the goal of influencing a particular set of observers at a given time. He once said to me, 'Only the reader can judge whether a book is superficial, or, alternatively, possesses an abiding intensity that provokes thought, empathy, joy, doubt, and gets to the heart and soul of things.'

Your novel, Sink, is the first of three short stories that will form a trilogy of novels? Is that correct? If so, can you elaborate?
I'm still trying to find my writer's voice. One must be an acute observer of human behaviour, attitudes and be able to read character. A voyeur, of sorts. The language, the words, the characters, must impact on me. I don't expect anyone of a reasonable intellect to read it. Otherwise I would be outed as a fraud. The trilogy will include, Sink, Bath and A Single Room. I suppose the first short story, Sink, could be interpreted as an attempt to cast light on something detached, yet ever present, that has borne witness to the life and values of an individual. The effects of their childhood and formative experiences, their ambitions, achievements, loves and disasters.

The heart of the story is that no human being is free of flaw or disappointment. The antiquated sink, and the single room in which it stands, face the cycle of renewal. The cycle of renewal that those with abiding intensity and strength use to create a less complicated and better life for themselves and those around them.

If you could change one thing in your life what would it be?
Years ago, one night, while the world was sound asleep, I found myself fizzled through the consumption of too many cocktails. For some reason, unrevealed to myself, I felt a sudden urge to board the night bus to Putney High Street in London.

Would you care to amplify on your comment? 
Well, the bus was 'out of service.' I spent five days on the inert machine before a passing dog jumped on board to inform me. The dog was a Neapolitan Mastiffa which, I recollect, bore an uncanny resemblance to Cherie Blair.

Reflections:  It is noteworthy to remember that words can be dangerous in the mouths of the supercilious, the detached, the impassive, the fabricator, and especially if they fall on your head.