Kevin Jackson (Greta and the Labrador, out now) – ITW #16
Writer, broadcaster, filmmaker, pataphysician: Kevin Jackson expressed his curiosity and his fierce desire for creation through more means that you could imagine in a lifetime. A few lifetimes could be necessary, to be honest. Kevin Jackson must be a cat. A cat who wrote a story with a dog. Yes, you read that right.
Kevin Jackson is a generous, thoughtful character himself. He agreed to share some of his colors with us and we couldn’t be happier to share them with you today.
Read now, or…
Our interview with Kevin Jackson:
Your last novel Greta and the Labrador features, quite obviously, an animal, and comprises the geographical notion of the North. Does it echo, and how does it echo with one of your previous books, Moose?
There is not really much of a connection between these two books. Moose is, or was meant to be, a serious cultural history of that beast, while Greta is a kind of fairy story – originally aimed at children, though the people who like it most seem to be adults. At some very deep level, I suppose that they are vaguely related by (a) my interest in almost all animals, including insects, and (b) a lifelong interest in the North, which began when I was quite a small child, and entranced by Norse mythology. Otherwise, they stand for the two extremes of my writing life: scholarship and story-telling.
Greta Garbo dreamt of loneliness, but she must not be the only one. Why did you choose the character of Greta Garbo instead of another Hollywoodian figure?
The poem sprang not from any obsession with Greta Garbo herself, but with her famous declaration: “I want to be alone!” One of the subjects of the poem is the craving for solitude, which does not seem to make a lot of sense in evolutionary terms (we are herd animals) and yet has tempted so many exceptional people. But the poem is also meant to be about a passage from depression to contentment. Greta’s dog Pikus is a black Labrador because, in English culture, “Black Dog” is a poetic term for melancholy.
From films to books to producing for the BBC, you’ve been prolific and actively curious. Have you ever dreamed of loneliness yourself?
No one can be a professional writer who cannot endure, or even enjoy, the experience of being alone for hour after hour, day after day. Someone who has written brilliantly about this in recent years is the fine American novelist Paul Auster. As an only child, I learned at a young age how to entertain myself inside my own head, without any great craving for playmates or games. As an adult, I now love all the pleasures of friendship and conviviality, but being alone is still quite comfortable.
You seem to be used to artistic collaborations. How did your collaboration with the illustrator Jo Dalton differ from your previous experiences?
It’s not quite accurate to say that Jo and I collaborated; I admire her charming, lyrical work and think she did a remarkable job, but when I first wrote the poem, about five years ago, I had no idea that one day it might be illustrated – indeed, I did not really expect that it would ever be published! Jo arrived on the scene long after it was completed. But the timing of this venture – me writing the text first, a partner coming along later –is exactly the same as my other collaborations: scripts for comics which are then drawn by Hunt Emerson, lyrics for songs which are then set to music by Colin Minchin…
What’s the key to combine an immense curiosity and desire to produce with the societal imperative of cohesion? Is cohesion even important through one's artistic career?
The vast majority of creative activities begin in solitude and then pass out into the larger world. Even film-making, probably the most collaborative of art forms, begins with a single writer or a small team of writers thrashing away at a screenplay. But the products of creativity then pass back into private again – into the minds and hearts of the people who read, look, listen, feel. At a time when millions of people are forced to be at home when they would usually be out, my hope is that this involuntary retreat will inspire many shut-ins to search for instruction and delight in the arts, and, in some cases, to remind them that it is perfectly natural to enjoy, like Miss Garbo, being alone.
Kevin Jackson, Greta and the Labrador.
Holland House Books. Available now.
Illustrations by Jo Dalton.
Greta Garbo, the immortal goddess of the silver screen, said that she wanted to be alone. What if she had been granted that wish? What if she had travelled further and further until she arrived at the North Pole? And what if she met a faithful dog along the way…
About Kevin Jackson:
KEVIN JACKSON is an English writer, broadcaster and film-maker. His books include Constellation of Genius, Carnal and the best-selling Kindle Single, Mayflower: The Voyage from Hell. He won Cambridge University’s Seatonian Prize for poetry, and has published a translation of Crimean Sonnets, by the great Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz.
About Jo Dalton:
JO DALTON is an experimental Artist and Motion Designer. Her design studio Room Fifty Nine is based in Bristol and she works in media ranging from Intaglio Printmaking, Painting and Illustration, through to Graphic Design, Motion Graphics and Animation.