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The Man Booker Universities Initiative: Adam Foulds visits Stirling

The Man Booker Universities Initiative: Adam Foulds visits Stirling

1,400 copies of The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds were given to first year students of University of Stirling as part of the Booker Prize Foundation university programme.

Each student was asked to read the book in advance of their arriving at Stirling University. The aim of the initiative as a whole is to provide Freshers with a common experience, to promote intellectual debate and the exchange of ideas, and also to encourage students to read quality contemporary fiction.

Student Laura Turnbull Fyfe blogs about Adam Foulds visit to the University on 9 October.

When Adam Foulds announced he was to publish The Quickening Maze, Literati around Britain wondered whether Foulds, an esteemed poet, could match his poetic achievement in prose.  Actually, he could.  The novel was a triumph. Professor John Gardner, Deputy Principal at the University of Stirling, described The Quickening Maze as “a book which combines a poetic impulse and a sense of the poetic image with a sense of humanity about the purposes of literature.”

The Quickening Maze was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2009.

Dr James Naughtie, Chancellor of the University of Stirling and Trustee of the Booker Prize Foundation introduced Adam Foulds as a “writer of dazzling contemporary literature” before detailing the numerous awards with which Foulds is “festooned”. 

And so the bar was set: would Adam Foulds live up to expectations when he was welcomed to the University of Stirling? No pressure, Adam.

The aim of the Booker Prize Foundation event was to encourage the reading of quality literature.  In this, the event was undoubtedly successful: all first year students had been gifted with a copy of Fould’s  award-nominated work, and discussions on the novel showed a wide variety of perspectives.  Fould’s impact on the students of Stirling University was two-fold.  That afternoon, students of the Creative Writing MLitt were given the invaluable opportunity of a Master Class.  In the evening, a Reading and a Q&A session were opened up to other students, staff, and the general public.

What struck me during the Master Class was the wealth of knowledge and experience from which Foulds, a young writer, could draw, referring to Roland Barthes, Tolstoy, and Flaubert, among others.  His advice, using poetry as stimulation for discussion, had a poet’s focus on the importance of language, and  of the telling detail.  Description, he said, is where “the reality of perception is most alive and the skill of the writer is most evident.”  When writing a scene, he considers “what are the details what would most ignite it … make the texture of the reality of that experience”.  

And Fould’s eloquence did not desert him that evening during his reading and the question and answer session  which followed, led by award winning writer and Creative Writing Lecturer, Meaghan Delahunt.   His responses to questions from Delahunt and the audience were warm, humorous and thoughtful, giving an insight into his creative process and his delight in language.  He described his pleasure at finding out that two “geniuses” of poetry ( John Clare and Alfred Tennyson)had spent time in the very place he had grown up, “it was like these two ghosts had manifested in my back garden”.

So did Adam Foulds live up to expectations? He was inspired, and therefore inspiring.  His passion and encyclopaedic knowledge of John Clare’s life and times were palpable. As someone who hopes one day to become a published author, I found his advice invaluable, his enthusiasm infectious. I’m sure I speak for everyone in the audience when I say: Adam: thank you!

Laura Turnbull Fyfe

Adam Foulds visit to Stirling University on 9 October.