Making an Elephant

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 July, 2010, 12:00am

Making an Elephant
by Graham Swift
Picador, HK$117

This collection of essays, interviews, remembrances and other bric-a-brac reads like an in-between project for Booker prize winner Graham Swift. Unconvincingly, he says his aim was 'to offer portraits of and pay tribute to individuals I've been lucky enough to know'. If that were the case the pieces wouldn't seem like off-cuts. An article about guitar shopping with Kazuo Ishiguro has Swift pointing out, insightfully, that the elements of narrative - timing, pacing, flow, recapitulation, tension and release - are musical ones too. But then he includes an interview in lazy Q&A format, in which he asks 'Ish' about The Remains of the Day and his Englishness and Japaneseness. Improving on his questions is his touching tribute to Ted Hughes, whom Swift first encountered through the poem Pike and with whom he later went fishing. Then there's his search for jailed dissident Czech author Jiri Wolf. An interview left Swift with a 'perverse feeling of disappointment' because he 'was nowhere nearer to knowing him'. Of all the personalities it is his father who stands out, however. No surprise then that the chapter devoted to him is the book's title.