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Redressing the myth that maybe that men can’t be funny…Meg Mason gives good irony


For readers who haven’t (yet!) read your wonderful witty novel, can you tell us about it in one sentence?

I can’t, but when the protagonist, Martha, reads back her own diary, she says, ‘in it, I saw shame and hope and grief, guilt and love, sorrow and bliss, kitchens, sisters and mothers, joy, fear, rain, Christmas, gardens, sex and sleep and presence and absence, the parties. Patrick’s goodness; my striking unlikeability and attention-seeking punctuation.’ That’s quite a number of clauses, but legally it’s still one sentence, and it is what SORROW AND BLISS is about.

Your novel is darkly comic – where do you get inspiration for this type of humour?

If told me to go and write a funny novel, with jokes in it, I would be crying before you made me get up to go and start. I couldn’t do it, but I can and, in this case, did just tip in everything I’d ever read, seen or overheard, and remembered. And if I remembered them, it’s because they were either devastating or hilarious. I can’t retain anything in the middle.

And did you write a teenage diary with worthy poems?

…when I wasn’t watching compilation videos of Victoria Wood and French and Saunders that I taped off the television, I did, yes. And of the eight million or so poems in there, almost-one of them is very moving.

Self-destruction, self-sabotage, and slightly skewed mindfulness are big themes in your novel. How do you portray these serious themes through your brilliant comic lens?

I started SORROW AND BLISS just after or actually more mid existential career crisis, and I didn’t have the energy to do anything except write about serious or ridiculous things, the way I would Whatsapp my sister…

Are any members of Martha’s dysfunctional family inspired by your own family?

…if I had a sister, which I don’t. Ingrid, Martha’s sister, is inspired by my always wanting one like her. The rest, I had to invent because if I’d put my own family in, with different names and another-colour hair, the manuscript would have been returned with margin notes like poss.a bit much. Not sure anyone wld actually say that.

Finally, can you tell us why you think CWIP is important?

It’s important to me – in the personal, life is too extraordinary sometimes sense - because at a point in her career, Martha has a job writing descriptions of chairs for World of Interiors. I gave it to her because of a line in Absolutely Fabulous, which I watched for the first time when I was maybe 15. At an editorial meeting, one of Patsy’s magazine colleagues says they could just do a story about lovely chairs and run some lovely photos. I have never forgotten it, the perfection of the dialogue and the delivery…by Helen Lederer.

As to the prize’s cultural importance, I would say, it gives male writers something to aspire to. And perhaps, one day, it could have a special division for men’s fiction, which might help redress the popular belief that men can’t be funny.

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