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Style is the latest book by British author Joseph Connolly, examining many aspects of the human condition and the nuances found in today’s popular culture. Connolly himself has his own type of style, with wonderfully full whiskers and an impressive beard, combining panache with class. Yet trying is not crucial to his appearance, it comes naturally to him, as does the written word. We find out more about this innovative author and artist.
The action in Connolly’s new novel unfolds around unassuming ten year old Alexander, who is thrust into fame under the superficial light of celebrity that modern British society is so eager to cast. The infusion of comedy with tragedy puts the exciting characters through their paces. Style examines many contemporary social issues, flawlessly combining them with a comedic angle. Connolly explains his take on comedy and tragedy as ‘no accident that the symbols of drama are the sad and happy masks: comedy and tragedy must co-exist … and I very much like having them both quite rampant within the same work. I would say that it is harder to make someone laugh than it is to make them cry …’. As a book aficionado, Connolly and his wife would travel the length and breadth of England collecting Modern First Editions.This led to the publication of his book, the appropriately titledCollecting Modern First Editions (1977). Later, he became a restaurant reviewer for The Hampstead & Highgate Express, and is now the acclaimed author of 13 novels.
He states: ‘I don’t write for myself: my prize is having written. You do raffia work for yourself, you have hot bubble baths for yourself, you eat chocolates for yourself. Writing is about communication: why one needs to be published. A reader has spent precious leisure time and leisure money on your book, and you owe him. Entertainment, primarily … and, with a bit of luck, something a bit more lasting’. Connolly is particularly skilled at capturing the voices of his characters, and two rather amusing personages he explores are the quintessential ‘pushy-parents’. As a father, Connolly has valuable insight into the parent-child dynamic. When asked about what issues he believes threatens this relationship today in our age, Connolly responds:’There has always been a divide between parents and children: there is meant to be. It is necessary for both factions separately to be able to lead a distinct ‘other’ life … but lately, that divide has threatened to become a chasm. Online, of course, is the main problem here. It is no longer a fun adjunct to young lives, but in the most extreme cases has supplanted life itself – a life lived wholly vicariously, and one where dark and dangerous experience is forever lurking. Parents are frightened and baffled… but they are meant to be, of course: it’s part of it’.
Connolly’s style of writing, just as his image, is absolutely owned by him alone. His fluidity emerges out of a stream of consciousness writing style. He admits that ‘[a]ll writing is hard, although it mustn’t show: it should read as if you wrote it as fast and as breezily as the reader is reading it. But it’s my job, and I can do it (I hope)’. However, Connolly is somewhat a literary rebel, although not a reckless one. He claims that one must know the rules of writing utterly in order to break them absolutely:’I’m always breaking rules: syntactically, stylistically and in terms of constant switches between first and third person, as well as – of course – the streams of consciousness. I don’t think I could write a book without it all, actually’.
When asked for his literary influences, Connolly replies that ‘[t]hese days ‘ideas’ and ‘influence’ and ‘homage’ tend to mean stealing, basically’. Rather, he hopes he has a place within British literature without drawing comparisons. In the theme of modern social issues, Connolly remains professional and diplomatic when discussing how publishing has changed in light of the rise of technology and the masses continuously shifting away from the printed word: ‘I am very lucky: still my publisher Quercus are releasing my novels as finely produced jacketed hardbacks, and they have just finished publishing the entire backlist in a uniform paperback edition. They exist as ebooks as well, of course … so personally, I have nothing to regret at all. Not a typical story, I know’.