|Born||1975 (age 38–39)
Cookstown, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
He studied at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he attained a first in English, and won the "Arthur Quiller-Couch Award for Creative Writing". He went on to work at the law firm Allen & Overy in London for six years, before leaving to concentrate on his writing.
Influences and themes
In a January 2006 appearance on The Leonard Lopate Show, Laird explained how travelling out of Northern Ireland for an education in Cambridge had expanded his horizons and opened him up to opportunities that he believes would have otherwise been closed to him: "I met a Jewish person for the first time. I met a black person for the first time." He also described the freedom that moving away from Northern Ireland gave him with respect to adopting a new, or broader, identity. "It does mean freedom in a way to reinvent."
One of the themes in Laird's writing is the interpersonal relationships forged between men and women, and in the Lopate interview, he cited Ian McEwan and Nick Hornby as writers whom he admired for their ability to weave this element into their work. Laird is also one of the post-Troubles young novelists from Belfast, who have emerged to articulate the identity of the generation whose childhoods were experienced amid some of the region's worst violence, but who also matured in an era of problematic reconciliation. Along with Robert McLiam Wilson, whose novel Eureka Street was widely acclaimed, the most successful young novelists from Belfast are Glenn Patterson, author of six novels and a collection of essays, and Colin Bateman, a very prolific and commercially successful author of comic novels about contemporary Belfast including Divorcing Jack.
Laird also cited the enduring influence of Irish poet Seamus Heaney on his life and work, tracing his love of literature back to reading some of Heaney's early work, which he claimed "seems to be written out of the same place that you live."
As of 2009, Laird has written two novels, Utterly Monkey and Glover's Mistake, and two prize-winning books of poems, To a Fault and On Purpose.
Utterly Monkey is a novel that questions the notion of loyalty: where our loyalties actually lie, and where perhaps they should. It was published in May 2005 by Fourth Estate, and by Harper Perennial in the US. It follows the relationship of two childhood friends from Northern Ireland.
One of them, Danny, grew up to be a lawyer after attaining an education in London, while the other, Geordie, works as a labourer, and did not pursue extensive studies after school. Laird has described Geordie as "more feckless than Danny," and "a kind of a drifter."
The novel also explores the endemic inter- and intrasectarian political and military conflict within Northern Ireland known as The Troubles. When asked whether or not Americans are able to comprehend and identify with the experiences of people in Northern Ireland, Laird replied: "I think they can, but I don't think they do," and cited the "low level of discourse" that he has encountered in regard to this subject when he travels to America.
To a Fault
To a Fault is Laird's first collection of poems, and was nominated for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. It explores the sharp edge of relationships against social and political backdrops; "the fault" that unites the poems lying in the paradoxes of relationships: needing to remain both in and outside; desiring the security of home but the excitement of flight. To a Fault was published by Faber and Faber in January 2005.
On Purpose is his follow-up book of poems, published also by Faber and Faber in 2007. The collection further explores the concept of relationships, loosely based on the tract The Art of War by Sun Tzu. The book won the Somerset Maugham Award and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 2008.
Review from the New York Times
A blog called The Damp Review figures prominently in Nick Laird’s new novel. On it David Pinner, once an art student, now a teacher who dabbles in cultural criticism, writes about “whatever took his fancy. Or didn’t,” Mr. Laird writes. “He found it easier to write on disappointments. Hatreds, easier still.” At the beginning of the book David goes to an art opening for Ruth Marks, a feminist American artist who is in London on a yearlong residency. Ruth was once David’s teacher, and they strike up a friendship. But Ruth strikes up more with David’s much-younger roommate, James Glover, who plays the innocent to David’s cynic. And, as the romance between Ruth and James develops, so does David’s anger and unhappiness. Mr. Laird is also a poet, a day job he reveals in sentences like “David realized he’d been unconsciously pushing his nails into his palms, leaving little red falciform marks.”
The Voice also has a review.
Recognition and prizes
To a Fault and Utterly Monkey were both long-listed for the inaugural Dylan Thomas Prize. To a Fault won the Jerwood Aldeburgh Prize, the Ireland Chair for Poetry Award and the Rupert and Eithne Strong Award. It was also shortlisted for the Forward Poetry Prize for First Collection; it was shortlisted for the Poetry Now Award in 2006; and it was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award.
Laird was also the recipient of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 2005. Utterly Monkey won the Betty Trask Prize for best first novel in 2005. It was also shortlisted for the Commonwealth best first novel award, the Irish novel of the year award, and the Kerry Group Listowel Fiction prize. On Purpose won a Somerset Maugham Award and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 2007.
Laird met Zadie Smith at Cambridge University. They married in 2004 in the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge. Smith dedicated On Beauty to "my dear Laird". The couple lived in Monti, Rome, Italy, from November 2006 to 2007 and are now based between New York City and Queen's Park, London. They have two children, Katherine (Kit) and Harvey.
- "Culture, Entertainment and Art". Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-09-07.
- "The Leonard Lopate Show: Engendering Debate". WNYC. 2006-01-25. Retrieved 2012-09-07.
- "New Books". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-09-29 (login required).
- Zach Baron (2009-07-15). "Irish Novelist Nick Laird Goes Utterly Pug - Page 1 - Books - New York". Village Voice. Retrieved 2012-09-07.
- "Bush Theatre". Bushtheatre.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-09-29.
- "It's nothing to do with me" Guardian profile/interview of Nick Laird.
- Mr and Mrs Smith Interview by the Daily Telegraph.
- Nick Laird Biography, courtesy of British Council Arts.
- Lad Lit Interview on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show.
- John Redmond Reviews To a Fault
- Utterly Monkey, by Nick Laird PopMatters book review.
- "Cuttings," by Nick Laird
- Nick Laird: "The Bearhug"
- Michiko Kakutani reviews Utterly Monkey, by Nick Laird