Andrew McMillan and Jon McGregor discuss community, masculinity and post-industrialisation in Northern England
The town was once a hub of industry. A place where men toiled underground in darkness, picking and shovelling in the dust and the sleck. It was dangerous and back-breaking work but it meant something. Once, the town provided, it was important, it had purpose. But what is it now?
Brothers Alex and Brian have spent their whole life in the town where their father lived and his father, too. Still reeling from the collapse of his personal life, Alex, is now in his middle age, and must reckon with a part of his identity he has long tried to mask. Simon is the only child of Alex and had practically no memory of the mines. Now in his twenties and working in a call centre, he derives passion from his side hustle in sex work and his weekly drag gigs.
Set across three generations of South Yorkshire mining family, Andrew McMillan’s short and debut novel is a lament for a lost way of a life as well as a celebration of resilience and the possibility for change.
Andrew McMillan’s debut collection of poetry, physical, was described as ‘the sort of once-in-a-generation debut that causes everyone to sit up and take notice.’ physical was the only poetry book to ever win the Guardian First Book Award; it was also as one of the Top 25 Poetry Books of the Past 25 Years by the Booksellers Association. He co-edited the anthology 100 Queer Poems, and is professor of contemporary writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Jon McGregor is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Nottingham. His novels often cover aspects of city life, in Nottingham and elsewhere. He has published five novels and two short story collections, and won awards including the Dublin Literature Prize and Costa Novel Award. He also participated in several residencies, writing workshops, mentorships, and prize juries. Jon has a particular interest in exploring new forms of literary performance and live audience engagement.
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