Nick Laird: an interview and an essay

Tanya Gold interviews the likeable and loquacious (but deftly evasive) Nick Laird, whose debut novel, Utterly Monkey, appears in the UK this week. At present he’s best known as the spouse of fellow novelist Zadie Smith, but early, positive reviews of his book suggest that’s about to change.

You can sample his writing in the latest print issue of the London Review of Books. Here’s a brief excerpt from “The dogs in the street know that“:

Growing up in Cookstown in County Tyrone, I would occasionally wonder what it would be like to be Martin McGuinness’s son. He was infamous for being Sinn Féin’s number two, and for being the officer commanding of the Derry brigade of the IRA, a position he assumed, as he recently admitted, in February 1972. He was born the same year as my mother, and my parents used to live in Londonderry. If instead of meeting my dad at a dance in Dublin, she had met a young butcher called Martin from the Bogside, maybe I would be Martin Jr. There was an Oedipal twist to my unlikely fantasy, because I also used to imagine killing him. And it wasn’t just me. At lunch in the school canteen, between telling stories about armalites or girls, exit wounds or telly programmes, we’d all go on about how much we’d love to fucking kill McGuinness. To blow him up. To gun him down. To do to him what his crowd had done, and was doing, to other people, to people we knew. Then, in the 1997 general election, after I had left home and gone to university in England, Martin McGuinness became our MP.


You might want to subscribe to my free Substack newsletter, Ancestor Trouble, if the name makes intuitive sense to you.