|Kevin Curran, author of Beatsploitation|
"Beatsploitation was a direct response to and conversation with a number of books. It came out of a turbulent time in our country in 2010; society’s leaders were in a spin, making decisions that would affect us all. A sense of anger was in the air, a sense that those in positions of power, in all walks of life, were not doing the best by us. A real moral wasteland was becoming apparent in Ireland as I started to write Beatsploitation, and as our failures unfolded, I thought it only right, I should try to chronicle our failures in some way. A number of key books helped me find a form and style for taking on what would become Beatsploitation.
Disgrace by J.M Coetzee was a huge influence. The way it dealt with racism, at an acute, oblique, yet unique angle was fascinating. The strong plot and three act structure, the one horrendous act and the fall-out after it, colours all of my book. Of course, Coetzee’s refusal to take on cultural ventriloquism, was a technique I would follow also. Our society is rapidly become a more multi-cultural one, and of course, as time moves on, it will be faced with issues it has not before faced. Disgrace, although written in the present tense – like Beatsploitation – is in the 3rd person, so never attempts to take on the voice of the dispossessed. I took a decision from the start of Beatsploitation to do the same. The time will come when an African voice will talk about this country, I just wanted to bring this voice to the attention of Irish Literature, not by giving it a full book, but at least by giving it some space to be heard, and recognised.
Less than Zero and American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis gave a new impetuous to my writing and focused my thoughts on the novel. The present tense, first person voice, unapologetically of its time and showing no patience for the reader who is unaccustomed to the cultural references littered throughout the book, helped me make a decision to place Beatsploitation in a very specific space and time. Balbriggan, although not quite LA – or New York – was an interesting space I felt could be captured and given to the world of literature. The cultural references of our time, soon to be outdated, were kept; the musical tastes of the narrator Rob, like Patrick Bateman and his obsession with Genesis, remained to give an authentic, early 21st century feel to the book. Of course, the pure power of both Easton Ellis’s characters, the lost, bored inconvenience of living from Less than Zero, to the manic ambition of American Psycho, most certainly did not illicit our sympathies, yet they demanded out attention due to their vitality, and lack of virtue. Rob Lynch, I hope, does the same.
Another American writer, the incomparable John Updike, through Rabbit, Run and particularly Harry Angstrom, gave me a shape to hang the sense of unease my very own 27 year old protagonist felt. Trapped in a relationship he wishes to leave, living through the cinematic present tense, Updike’s seminal novel pointed me, like the other books mentioned, in the right direction. James Kelman’s A Disaffection, – just like Rabbit, Run showed me how a strong, localised dialect, when written properly, can add a sense of the confessional – and thus a strong connection – between reader and writer.
John McGahern’s The Pornographer and The Barracks shone a light on the need to stay true to where the story takes you and be unflinching in the face of a truth. For a truth, ultimately, is what, when we write, we are trying to pin down. Reading McGahern again while I was writing Beatsploitation gave me the courage to simply try and capture the world as I saw it, regardless of the doubts in the back of my mind. I thought about McGahern’s bravery writing The Barracks and The Pornographer and put my head down and kept going with my story.
To do justice to the character of ‘Kembo’ the African student, I simply listened to students in conversation with each other, and with myself. I listened to how they spoke, but also how they saw the world around them. To get a sense of Kembo’s cultural background I read Another Day of Life by Ryszard Kapuscinski. His detailed and harrowing account of the Portuguese desertion of Angola gave me a sense of Kembo’s potential past traumas.
At the end of all my reading and writing, the end product became Beatsploitaiton. It is not finished, simply published. For if I was to make it the book I always wanted it to be, I would be striving for something always a few inches out of reach. That’s the magic though, isn’t it? To obtain that perfection in art we always strive for."
Beatsploitation is available now through www.libertiespress.com - just click here! - and in shops nationwide from the w/b 27 May!
Kevin Curran grew up in Balbriggan, County Dublin and currently lives in Skerries with his wife and son. He has a Masters Degree in Anglo-Irish Literature from University College Dublin. Beatsploitation is his first novel and was selected as one of the 20 winners of the Irish Writers' Centre Novel Fair competition.