94. Alan Isler - The Prince of West End Avenue


In this episode John and Andy are joined by William Sutcliffe, the author of twelve novels, including the international bestseller Are You Experienced? and The Wall, which was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. William has written for adults, young adults and children, and his books have been translated into twenty-eight languages. His 2008 novel Whatever Makes You Happy has just been filmed by Netflix, starring Patricia Arquette and Angela Bassett, and will be released in August under the title Otherhood. His latest novel, The Gifted, The Talented and Me (published by Bloomsbury) was described by The Times as ‘dangerously funny’ and by the Guardian as ‘refreshingly hilarious’. William is joined by Samantha Ellis, returning to Backlisted for a second time after her key early episode Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend-Warner. Samantha writes books, plays and films. Her sparkling 2016 play How to Date a Feminist has been produced in Poland and Mexico, with another 4 productions in Germany alone; and her reading memoir How to be a Heroine (which came out of an argument with her best friend over which literary heroine she liked best, Jane Eyre or Cathy Earnshaw) was published by Chatto in 2014, and her latest book Take Courage: Anne Brontë and the Art of Life, an attempt to get to know the ‘other’ Brontë sister, who turns out be a radical pioneer, with a lot to teach us about how to find our way in the world. Samantha also worked as a script editor and writer on the two Paddington movies. The book under discussion is The Prince of West End Avenue, the first novel by Alan Isler, originally published by independent US publisher Bridge Works in 1994. It went on to win National Jewish Book Award, the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

The episode also contains Andy’s favourite paragraph of the year in his discussion of Claire Dederer’s Love & Trouble: Memoirs of a Former Wild Girl (published by Tinder Press) and John discovering the incandescent philosophical tales of Luis Sagasti in Fireflies (translated by Fionn Petch) and published by the excellent Charco Press.

Books mentioned:

Alan Isler - The Prince of West End Avenue
William Sutcliffe - Are You Experienced?; Whatever Makes You Happy; The Gifted, The Talented and Me; The Wall
Samantha Ellis - How to be a Heroine; Take Courage: Anne Brontë and the Art of Life
Kate Lister - A Curious History of Sex
Eve Babitz - Sex & Rage: Advice to Young Ladies Eager for a Good Time
Claire Dederer - Love & Trouble: Memoirs of a Former Wild Girl
Luis Sagasti - Fireflies
Carlo Ginzburg - The Cheese & the Worms
Nina Stibbe - Paradise Lodge
B.S. Johnson - House Mother Normal
Liz Jensen - War Crimes for the Home
Kingsley Amis - Ending Up
Tove Jansson - Sun City
Adam Biles - Feeding Time

Other links:

Andy Miller - ‘My Many years of Reading Dangerously’ on Boundless
Alan Isler interviewed at John Adams Institute in 1997
Penelope Fitzgerald on Alan Isler on A Good Read (1998)