You want a bollocking, or what?

The tutorial ended with an afternoon spent together with Hanif Kureishi – he of The Buddha of Surburbia and My Beautiful Launderette fame. Kureishi is punkish, argumentative, in your face – a born controversialist and fiercely faithful to his calling and to his art (to him, a literary critique is ‘a bollocking’). Here, then, was a third wonderful contrast. I can only give a flavour of the encounter through some ‘sound bites’, his insights delivered in staccato bursts: ‘bear somebody else in mind constantly’; ‘the criticism is the creativity’; ‘you don’t want short-cuts – you need long cuts’; ‘you want new difficulties, interesting difficulties’; ‘there’s got to be friction between you and your material’; ‘to speak is dangerous’; ‘almost all pleasures in life are about transgression’; ‘all great literature is about transgression’; ‘plot traps you’; ‘thank God I have been a writer’; ‘I’d love to stop being a writer’. We were given a simple exercise of writing for thirty minutes and then reading out the results. It was a simple but very effective device to illustrate a) just how much you can write in half an hour and b) just how well you can write in half an hour if you put your mind to it. Kureishi pointed out that this is precisely the sort of challenge screen writers face all the time: the scene has to be changed, but the crew and the cast are on the set. Just do it! Fascinating and a great end to a very rich and rewarding two days.