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Michael Farris Smith to talk at London's inaugural Festival America
Michael Farris Smith tells us about his new novel, The Fighter, and London's upcoming celebration of North American literature
Where are you from, and how did you get involved in Festival America's inaugural London programme?
I’m from Mississippi, and live in Oxford. My new novel THE FIGHTER came out earlier this year and my involvement with Festival America came through my UK publisher No Exit Press.
Festival America is a celebration of Transatlantic literature and culture. How important is it to safeguard and celebrate Transatlantic culture?
To say Transatlantic culture is casting a pretty wide net. I think it is all those smaller pockets of culture that live inside that is what’s so important to safeguard. How do we keep from the generalizing of people and their places, how do we avoid the broad stroke that labels us all the same? Part of the way to do that is with festivals like this that introduce writers and artists to the public and allow them to share their own distinct part of the world.
How will you be participating in the Festival? Are you discussing a particular work of yours?
I’ll be discussing THE FIGHTER on a panel and visiting a bookstore or two, I think.
What makes American and Canadian literature special?
Similar to what I mentioned above, it is the distinct voices from such vast regions. Alice Munro gives us her pocket of Canadian ruralism, Jim Harrison gave us Montana, James Lee Burke gives us Louisiana, and so on. It is the specific places and voices that make up the whole that make it special.
How do you reflect on your cultural connections through your work?
I think it’s just a natural transference. I don’t think about the people or the place I’m writing about as I’m writing a novel, not in terms of cultural connections. I just know them, I know where I am, I know the feel of the place and I know the voices of the people and I just let it all speak for itself. There is no reason to fake it.
What do you hope visitors to Festival America, and your talk in particular, will take away from the experience?
I think visitors will get to experience those voices from unique regions and attitudes from up close, making their reading more personal. That is always what I get from listening to other writers.
What's the best thing about being part of Festival America's London programme this September?
It’s exciting to be part of the inaugural program and I’m excited to make it back to London, where I haven’t been in about eight or nine years. It seems to me to be the perfect place for a literary festival.
Michael Farris Smith will be speaking at a talk on September 25 at Waterstones Trafalgar Square, from 6:30pm, on the subject of 'Exploring the violent underbelly of North America'. Click here to buy tickets.