The Novel as a Fizzing Bomb in Your Brain

Hazlitt drops in on Nick Harkaway, née Nicholas Cornwell, at his London local. Discussed: his new novel Tigerman, writing as a compressed statement of identity, and the anxieties of paternal influence.

Is it helpful for you to get out of your house?

Yeah, I find it quite difficult to write in silence. Lots of writers get into this thing where if a sparrow farts outside their window—“Oh my God, person from Porlock! I can never finish Kublai Khan.”

You’re referring to your father, right?

Yes, I might conceivably be thinking of him. An enormous number of people feel that way. I counter it by making sure there’s ambient noise I can deal with. Here is perfect. It’s very dangerous to sit at those tables by the window [where the ceiling is angled down]. Everybody can hear your conversation down below, and you can hear theirs. I sat at one of those tables doing some work, and there was a woman discussing in extremely indiscreet terms the details of her divorce at the table below, and I wanted to go down there and say, “Lady, I now know everything I didn’t need to know about your sex life with your ex-husband.”

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