Richard Milward on karma and a girl called Kimberly
- Stewart Smith
- 19 August 2012
This article is from 2012.
The gifted young writer will read from latest book Kimberly’s Capital Punishment on 25 Aug at the Edinburgh Faber Social Unbound event
‘One of the best books I’ve ever read about being young, working class and British,’ said Irvine Welsh of Richard Milward’s 2007 debut, Apples. The 27-year-old followed it with Ten Storey Love Song (2009), a riotous tale of tower-block living written in a single, virtuosic paragraph. His latest, Kimberly’s Capital Punishmet, moves the action from his hometown of Middlesbrough to London. ‘The surrealistic, claustrophobic episodes seem strangely feasible, I reckon, in a city as marvellous and monstrous as our island’s capital,’ Milward explains.
The novel follows the efforts of Milward’s eponymous anti-heroine to redeem herself after the suicide of her long-suffering boyfriend. Her foray into ‘unadulterated altruism’, however, leads to further disaster. ‘Ultimately I wanted to write a black comedy that contained all sorts of weird wordplay, obscure literary devices and the odd red herring, while also being a kind of morality tale about kindness and karma. A lot of so-called taboos get twisted throughout the novel, in an attempt to poke fun at the absurdity of violence or pornography, both of which seem much more present in our world now the internet’s firmly taken hold.’
In a bold gambit, Milward gives the novel six different endings. A Choose Your Own Adventure for adults, perhaps? ‘I try to make sure these experiments with structure and form are conceptually sound. Without giving too much away, I dispose of the main character halfway through the novel, and the reader is invited to roll a dice to see what happens to her in the afterlife: she either goes to heaven, hell, is reincarnated or resurrected, turns into a ghost or rests in peace. No one knows for sure what happens after our last gasp, so I wanted to give six options. I give the reader a lot of power in this novel.’
In addition to appearing alongside Anthony Cartwright, Milward will be reading at the Faber Social Unbound event (25 Aug, 9pm). His approach is gleefully unconventional. ‘I love putting on a performance when I read, whether it means sticking a cardboard tower block on my bonce, or a blonde wig and skeleton gloves. Many readings can be stuffy, long-winded affairs; I’m much more influenced by stand-up, or someone like John Cooper Clarke, where more bizarre elements can sit alongside the spoken words.’
Richard Milward (with Anthony Cartwright), Charlotte Square Gardens, 0845 373 5888, 27 Aug, 3pm, £7 (£5).