Carole Morin

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Carole Morin
Portrait(low res).jpg
Carole Morin author pic by Andrew Catlin
Years active 1983–present

Carole Morin is a Glasgow-born novelist who lives in Soho, London. To date she has had four novels published: Lampshades,[1] Penniless in Park Lane,[2] Dead Glamorous.[3] and Spying On Strange Men [4]

Carole Morin's fiction is critically acclaimed and has been described as 'Sylvia Plath with a sense of humour' Glasgow Herald[5] and 'A Scottish nihilistic Catcher in the Rye' Kirkus Reviews.[6]

Paul Golding, writing in The Sunday Times compared her favourably to Françoise Sagan, writing 'Morin exploits the same obsessively introspective, whimsically punctuated stream-of-consciousness technique, but she is a much finer plotter and a hell of a better swearer'.[7]

Jackie McGlone of The Scotsman describes her 'wickedly entertaining pitch black novels' as being 'an ingenious blend of fact and fiction (full of epigrams and authorial apercus).’ [8]

She writes the Shallow Not Stupid [9] column in New York Arts and Fashion magazine Hint under as Vivien Lash, the name of the main character in her fourth novel Spying On Strange Men. She also recently has started writing for Victoriahealth.com in "Diary Of Two VH Addicts" under News & Views. [10]

Biography[edit]

Carole Morin was born in Glasgow. At 16 she became a Junior Diplomat to the United States on an AFS Scholarship. She was Literary Fellow at the University of East Anglia when Lorna Sage (author of Bad Blood) was Dean[11] She was writer-in-residence at Wormwood Scrubs prison when it was Category A. She is one of the few writers to have had weekly columns in both the right of centre Spectator and left of centre New Statesman, according to the Scotsman she is the only writer to achieve this.[12] She has also contributed to a number of other newspapers and magazines including the Financial Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Scotsman. She has lived in Kampala and Beijing and now lives in London.

Early career[edit]

Carole Morin's first impact as a writer was as a prize winner of the Bridport short story competition in 1984. John Fowles described her entry Thin White Girls as 'an intriguing blend of sophistication and innocence'.[13] She followed this by winning the Stand short story competition in 1987, for which the judge was Angela Carter. Thin White Girls was subsequently published by Faber & Faber in their prestigious First Fictions collection along with her Stand-prize-winning short story "Hotel Summer"[14] later republished in The Herald newspaper.[15]

Thin White Girls, like much of Morin's subsequent fiction, is narrated by a young female with a ruthless and unusual sense of humour. 'I think about toilets a lot,' she tells us, 'and how awful it must be to be a toilet.' This leads to the narrator writing a story at school from the point of view of a toilet. 'It was one of those stories where it's about the person telling it, so everything's "I", except the "I" hasn't to be yourself, if you see what I mean.' Her teacher is angry, 'But really I know my idea was much better' she continues, 'and when I'm out of her school I'll write about toilets as much as I like.'

Patrick Gale writing in the Daily Telegraph called it a "witty recreation of the fierce ambitions and divided loyalties of childhood".[16]

Morin's husband the writer Don Watson claimed in an article in The Herald[17] to have fallen in love with Morin before meeting her, when reading her story Serious Kissing in Serpent's Tail in the collection Sex & The City.[18]

'It had a strange, circuitous style to it,' Watson writes, 'which seemed as if it was always starting off to tell you something, but then veering off on some fascinating detour, so that you forgot where you were going in the first place. Then the ending pulled you up. sharp as a razor.'

First novel: Lampshades[edit]

Carole Morin's first novel Lampshades was published by Secker and Warburg in 1991. Largely set in a London and Glasgow that is almost, but not quite, recognisable as the landscape of the late Eighties, it tells the tale of a brave, verbally venomous but ultimately vulnerable sociopath called Sophira Van Ness.

Sophira is, in the words of Alexander Linklater, writing in the Herald[19]'psychologically unhinged and fixated on Hitler'. Linklater also called the novel 'strange to the point of uniqueness' with a 'powerful and at times compulsive appeal'.

According to the cover description, Sophira is 'fair and democratic: she hates everyone. The old, the fat, the poor, the black, the royal and the gay - all fall victim to her even-handed intolerance'. The book does seem to have a streak of racism and homophobia: "Looking at Nylon in real life makes me ill. Do I want to see him having his bum buggered by a big blackie jungle bunny through a crack in a toilet door" (Morin, C 1991p.17); but Sebastian Beaumont writing in the Gay Times (Feb 1992) says 'the invective is so rich and relentless that it is not offensive, but amusing instead. Morin has, by describing completely over-the-top prejudice, shown how absurd prejudice really is. ' He continues, 'This is a fascinating and macabrely funny book about misguided obsessions, and misplaced, erroneous concepts of purity. It is also extremely readable.'[20]

Grace Ingoldby, writing in The Independent, said, 'It is hard to resist quoting Lampshades at length, for Morin's first novel is so salty, has such stinging style. The worse she makes her Hitler-loving heroine..the more we like her.'[21]

Michael Porter reviewing the American edition in the New York Times, however, found the novel disquieting. '[Morin] seems intent on subverting any expectation that Sophira will abandon her ways or be punished for them'.[22]

Second novel: Dead Glamorous[edit]

Carole Morin's second book, Dead Glamorous was published in 1996. Opinion differs as to whether this book is an autobiography, a novel or somewhere in between. Maureen Cleave writing in the Daily Telegraph[23] implies that it inclines more towards fiction, 'She quotes Rudolph Valentino.' writes Cleave, '"There's no substitute for what you really want." Except he never said that - she made it up.'

'Carole Morin has enough autobiography to last her a lifetime,' wrote Allan Brown in the Sunday Times, '90 per cent of it comprises Dead Glamorous - or at least the 90 per cent she claims to be true. The rest is obfuscation and exaggeration, designed to give her already improbable tale the sheen of some glorious myth.' Morin, in the same interview claims that critics' attempts to identify which part was invention were usually wayward. 'The clues are definitely in the book,' she said, 'but none of the reviewers got it right. They say, how can she expect us to believe this bit is true, when I know that it is.'[24]

Dead Glamorous tells the story of Maria Money and her relationship with her acquisitive mother and suicidal brother and with the alternative reality of the cinematic imagination. As Maureen Cleave puts it John's suicide 'haunts the book' as it builds towards a life-affirming conclusion.

Alex Clark, writing in the TLS, said 'Her narrative voice is flippant, wise-cracking, streetsmart and hard as nails. Its brittleness sometimes stretches the reader to an almost unbearable degree before a compensatory piece of warmth, in the form of an abrupt confession, a piece of apparently unmediated emotion, is forthcoming.'[25]

Third novel: Penniless in Park Lane[edit]

Carole Morin's third book Penniless In Park Lane was published by John Calder in 2001. In a satirical depiction of London as the love affair with New Labour starts to cool, it tells the story of Astrid Ash.

'Astrid Ash is a bitch of the highest order,' says Paul Dale, writing in The List.[26] 'Part-time model, full-time swinging micro celeb, she lives with her millionaire boyfriend and corrupt New Labour MP Ginger. When he dumps her, she returns to her native Glasgow with her moaning mum and mealy-mouthed friend. Going stir crazy..she works out a ruse to smooth a return to Ginger’s penthouse and wreak horrid revenge.'

Ash is a different lead character for Morin, older and more vulnerable than her previous heroines, bringing a new dimension for Morin, but Penniless In Park Lane also has many of the same ingredients that readers responded to in Morin's earlier books, some vivid memories of childhood and a constant stream of one liners.

Mark Stanton, writing in the Glasgow Herald[27] describes Ash as 'a vulnerable yet tough woman who rails against the mediocrity and hypocrisy which surround her.'

Stanton quotes Ash, in a scene in which she visits an orphanage as striving for a ‘reason to organise a happy ending’, going on to say 'It is well worth hanging on to find out if Astrid’s own ending is to be a happy one.'

'What a talented, funny and downright addictive writer Carole Morin is, says Paul Dale,[28] describing Penniless In Park Lane as 'perfectly structured' and seeing in it 'shades of Wilde and Plath'. Friend and editor of Sylvia Plath, Al Alvarez described the book as 'funny, troublesome, rude, vindictive, sharp as a knife and elegantly written'.[29]

Amanda Blinkhorn, writing in the Hampstead and Highgate Express described Penniless in Park Lane as a 'sharply observed modern satire on New Labour.’[30]

‘Carole Morin gave up guilt for Lent,' Blinkhorn continues, 'and has no intention of succumbing to the temptation of wallowing in it again. In a world where women particularly are almost required to be overworked, overtired and overwrought, she is a refreshing, not to say alarming, beacon of decadence…with a teenager’s bafflement about the modern obsession with trying and failing to have it all….'

Kim Millar, writing in the Evening Times[31] described Penniless In Park Lane as ‘Hard, cynical and so funny it actually made me cry,' going on to describe it as, 'a brilliant but strangely bleak book’.

Fourth novel: Spying On Strange Men[edit]

Carole Morin's fourth novel, Spying On Strange Men, was published by Dragon Ink in 2013. It tells the story of Vivien Lash, a glamorous artist with a mysterious diplomat husband who adores her. She spends her time gleefully tracking her ‘installation’, which is what she calls her 'creepy neighbour'.

Spying on Strange Men begins as a comedy, 'illuminated by Vivien Lash’s imaginative way of seeing the world'.[32] 'She doesn’t so much have a habit of seeking out the grotesquely funny, she just seems to act as a magnet for it. Then all of a sudden, like a summer night in a strange city, the reader realises it’s getting dark, and the surroundings that seemed amusing a few pages back, are suddenly threatening.'

Jackie McGlone in the Scotsman describes it as "Double Indemnity without the insurance policy, a love story gone very, very wrong".[33]

'It's a twisted love triangle about a woman who loves her husband but wants to kill him,' Morin expands [34] 'She’s insuring her heart against him. And her boyfriend is really rich so they don’t need the money to escape.'

Richard Godwin [35] describes the book as 'a compelling, unsettling Noir novel written in sharp, elegant prose with scenes that move between surreal humour and a sudden darkness.' He goes on to praise 'Morin’s ability to write characters whose identities are partly self-fiction or who are on the verge of psychosis'.

Spying On Strange Men was also produced as an audio book[36] with Morin reading the part of Vivien Lash and her husband Don Watson reading the part of James Lash.

Performances[edit]

Morin has performed her work publicly on many occasions. She made her performance debut at the South Bank Centre and has appeared there several times, most recently in September 2014. Performances of Spying On Strange Men, the first of which was at the Beijing Bookworm in June 2012, were always marked by an announcement that she would be reading in character as her "evil twin Vivien Lash".

Other performance venues include the Society Club Soho and the Glasgow University Literary Society and Resonance FM.[37]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Morin, C.; Lampshades (Secker & Warburg, 1991, republished Minerva 1992, Indigo 1998, Overlook Press (American edition) 1998).
  2. ^ Morin, C.;Penniless in Park Lane (John Calder, 2001)
  3. ^ Morin, C.;Dead Glamorous (Gollancz 1996, republished Indigo 1997, Overlook Press (American edition) 1997)
  4. ^ Morin, C.; Spying On Strange Men (Dragon Ink 2013).
  5. ^ Linklater, Alexander. Original to the point of uniqueness; Glasgow Herald,31 October 1991,
  6. ^ Book Review, Kirkus Review, 15 June 1998
  7. ^ Golding, Paul, In the worst possible taste; The Sunday Times, 9 December 1991
  8. ^ Carole Morin On Fidel Castro And Evil Twins, Scotsman, 3 March 2013
  9. ^ Shallow Not Stupid column
  10. ^ Diary Of Two VH Addicts by Carole Morin, Victoriahealth.com, 2 May 2017
  11. ^ Morin, C.; A Chapter of Disasters, The Herald, 29 July 1995
  12. ^ McGlone, J; The queen of bad taste; Scotsman, 6 January 2002
  13. ^ Fowles, J.; "Winning entries in the creative writing competition". Bridport, 1984.
  14. ^ Morin, C.; First Fictions (Faber & Faber, 1989)
  15. ^ Morin, C., Hotel Summer; The Herald, 1 March 1997
  16. ^ Gale, P.; "Hungry Rats", Daily Telegraph, 5 Feb 1989
  17. ^ Watson, D; The Trials of Dangerous Don, The Herald, 27 Sept 1996
  18. ^ Morin, C.; Sex & The City (Serpent's Tale, 1989)
  19. ^ Linklater, Alexander. Ibid
  20. ^ Beaumont, S.; Failing Family Life; Gay Times, Feb 1992
  21. ^ Ingoldby, G.; "How to love a Fascist", The Independent on Sunday, 10 November 1991
  22. ^ Porter, Michael, Book Review; The New York Times Book Review, 18 October 1998
  23. ^ Cleave, M.; "True Lies". Telegraph Magazine, 8 June 1996.
  24. ^ Brown, A.; 'Carole Morin's second book is an unlikely family saga'. Sunday Times, 29 September 1996
  25. ^ Clark, A.; Times Literary Supplement, 14 February 1997
  26. ^ Dale, P. Book Review of Penniless In Park Lane, The List, 29 Nov - 13 Dec 2001
  27. ^ Stanton, Mark. Book Review; Glasgow Herald, 24 November 2001
  28. ^ Dale,P. Ibid
  29. ^ Alvarez, A. Postcard to author 20 Nov 2001; Author's collection
  30. ^ Blinkhorn, A. Profile of Carole Morin, Hampstead and Highgate Express; 9 August 2002
  31. ^ Millar, K. Book review; Evening Times, 24 November 2001
  32. ^ http://www.carolemorin.co.uk
  33. ^ http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/books/features/carole-morin-on-fidel-castro-and-evil-twins-1-2818030
  34. ^ http://carolemorin.co.uk/interview/
  35. ^ Godwin, Richard; Interview with Carole Morin
  36. ^ Morin, Carole Spying On Strange Men Audio Book
  37. ^ Resonance FM 13 Feb 2014 [1].

External links[edit]