Woodward, Gerard (Vaughan) 1961-
Woodward, Gerard (Vaughan) 1961-
PERSONAL: Born December 4, 1961; son of Reginald L. and Sylvia (Walsh) Woodward; married Suzanne Jane Anderson (a teacher), 1983; children: Corin, Phoebe. Education: London School of Economics, B.S.; University of Manchester, M.A. (anthropology); University of Greenwich, certificate (education). Hobbies and other interests: Playing chess and piano, pathology.
ADDRESSES: Office—Bath Spa University College, Newton Park Campus, Newton St. Loe, Bath BA2 9BN, England.
CAREER: In early career, worked as a vending machine filler; Bath Spa University College, Bath, England, associate lecturer in creative writing, 2004-.
MEMBER: British Society of Authors.
AWARDS, HONORS: Major Eric Gregory Award, 1989; Arts Council bursary, 1994, for poetry, 1999, for fiction; Somerset Maugham Award, for Householder; Maurice Freedman Prize.
The Unwriter and Other Poems, Sycamore Press, [England], 1989.
Householder (poems), Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1991.
After the Deafening (poems), Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1994.
Island to Island (poems), Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1999.
August (novel), Chatto & Windus (London, England), 2001.
I'll Go to Bed at Noon (novel; sequel to August), Chatto & Windus (London, England), 2004.
Contributor of poems and articles to periodicals, and reviews to London Daily Telegraph and Times Literary Supplement.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A sequel to I'll Go to Bed at Noon, a collection of poetry titled We Were Pedestrians, and a collection of short stories.
SIDELIGHTS: Gerard Woodward is the author of both collections of poetry and works of fiction. His first novel, August, was called "wonderfully wicked" by Spectator reviewer Margaret Forster. The story is set in 1955 and begins as Aldus and Colette Jones and their four children are starting a holiday on the coast of Wales. It soon becomes apparent that Colette, who wears elaborate gowns while camping, and the eldest son, Janus, are so eccentric as to be bordering on insanity. The story takes place both in Wales and in London and features scenes in which Colette's madness is made clear. Janus, a musical genius and artist, delights in scaring people, including his mother, who is so unstable that she becomes addicted to sniffing glue. Janus's torment of and feud with his mother go on for years, during which the camping trips continue. Colette is treated in a mental hospital, but remains fragile. By 1970 the trip is made only by Colette and her youngest child, who go by train, and Aldous, who cycles there.
Forster called August, an "exuberantly written and vastly entertaining first novel which balances near-farce with potential tragedy so beautifully. The energy fueling the language is colossal—it thunders away with tremendous gusto and gives off the heat of great promise for the future."
Woodward's own family history also fueled the story. He told an interviewer for Manchester Online that he didn't write the novel while his father was still alive because it would have upset him. Woodward's mother, Sylvia, also deceased, used solvents, then alcohol, after suffering a nervous breakdown brought on by the deaths of her mother, sister, and best friend. His brother, Francis, was a gifted pianist who attended the Royal Academy of Music. When he began drinking, he terrorized and stole from his family and attacked Sylvia. She eventually sent him away, and he was sent to prison for threatening to kill his employer. Woodward said that despite her problems, Sylvia was a good mother. "She was interesting. She was self-taught and very well read. I always felt loved by her."
I'll Go to Bed at Noon, the continuing story of Woodward's fictional family, finds Colette relying on barley wine and drugs in order to sleep. Janus steals the bathroom pipes to sell for beer money and is fired from a job as a hospital porter when he is caught stealing a brain from the morgue for the same purpose. Colette's widowed brother, Janus Brian, distills everything growing in his garden, and when he runs out, he turns to gin. Margie Thomson wrote in the New Zealand Herald Online that "we see Colette's collusion in the alcoholism of her son and brother—codependency is the therapy group term—but Woodward never directly addresses it or judges it. It just is, and with compassion he lets us watch the inevitable consequences unfold."
Younger brother Julian fantasizes about killing Janus to end the chaos. Janus's alcoholism limits him to working at menial jobs that he changes often and excludes the music career he could have had if the brilliant young pianist were sober. "Violent, pathetic, and exasperating in equal measure, he comes to dominate the novel," said Blake Morrison in Guardian Unlimited Books online. "'Janus, why couldn't you just be a normal child, a normal man,' Colette pleads, after reluctantly exiling him from home. Whatever the answer—and this is a novel where the characters seem like friends and family, to be discussed with your real friends and family—his childlike attachment to his mother seem to be part of it."
Telegraph Online contributor Kasia Boddy wrote that "in some ways, this is as much a story of a house as of a family. Woodward alerts us to this with an epigraph about rooms and the objects within them, but no one coming to his novels having read his poems will be surprised." The house is loved but suffers, as when the leaded-glass window in the front door is broken during a fight and replaced with an inexpensive single pane. As the four children grow up, rooms are changed and exchanged, and when the daughter's boyfriend moves in, her room becomes a "house within a house." Boddy said that "every act of destruction, reconstruction, or reorganization testifies to a stage in the family's history." Boddy called the novel "a story that leaves some space for the characters to breathe and for readers to think and feel for themselves." Independent Enjoyment reviewer Julie Wheelwright called I'll Go to Bed at Noon "both a poignant and compassionate observation of the parents' attempts to understand their adult children, and an exploration of their own failings."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
New Statesman, November 29, 2004, Bee Wilson, review of I'll Go to Bed at Noon, p. 49.
Spectator, August 4, 2001, Margaret Forster, review of August, p. 32.
Guardian Unlimited Books, http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (July 17, 2004), Blake Morrison, review of I'll Go to Bed at Noon.
Independent Enjoyment, http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/ (July 30, 2004), Julie Wheelwright, review of I'll Go to Bed at Noon; (September 19, 2004) Jonathan Myerson, review of I'll Go to Bed at Noon.
Manchester Online, http://www.manchesteronline.co.uk/ (July 15, 2004), review of I'll Go to Bed at Noon.
Telegraph Online, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ (July 26, 2004), Kasia Boddy, review of I'll Go to Bed at Noon.