6 - 20 October 2017

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The Manchester Literature Festival Blog

Review: Patrick Ness at Manchester Town Hall

Author Patrick Ness giving a reading at Manchester Town hall during the 2013 festivalJon Parker Lee

  • Author Patrick Ness giving a reading at Manchester Town hall during the 2013 festival

Patrick Ness is not a fixed point.

He is a trajectory, describing a path across time and space, towards whatever comes at the end.

Just now, he was at odds with Manchester Town Hall, railing against a “weird, dark room”, built on cotton and civic pride.

Patrick Ness is not a proper noun.

He is a verb, showing and telling. He is a showman, hard to catch in the act of showmanship.

He is not quite what you might have expected.

(Before and after him are The Bookshop Band, who are almost exactly what you might have expected. Which is to say that they perform songs drawing upon his novels, in a manner vaguely reminiscent of Shelleyan Orphan, or uncomfortably like Everything But The Girl before Ben stepped aside for Tracy.)

Much is expected of Patrick Ness. His greatness – and, make no mistake, his Chaos Walking trilogy is great, in the way that To Kill A Mockingbird is, and Harry Potter is not – lies in the ease with which he confounds such expectations.

Ostensibly, Patrick is promoting his two new novels, written side-by-side; non-identical twins.

The Crane Wife is not especially for young adults, More Than This could be read by post-adolescents without embarrassment.

The former, based on a Japanese fable, almost succeeds in conjuring a magical realist suburban England with an Anglo-American relative of Arthur Dent as its protagonist (and a supporting cast worthy of David Nobbs).

Ness explains that it was conceived partly out of a desire to explore the terrain of kindness, to refute the received wisdom that conflict only arises from characters who are “dicks”.

More Than This opens with the protagonist’s death. And then proceeds. Neither is the obvious career move for an author whose most well-known work is about to be adapted by Charlie Kaufman. But neither is Charlie Kaufman the most obvious screenwriter for the type of author who makes ‘career moves’.

Just now, beyond his winning ways with twitter-compatible aphorisms (is “dystopia is high school” trending?), surmounting his withering failure to suffer fools, this is what makes Patrick Ness unstoppable; he is a mainstream writer with big ideas, a novelist who writes at the speed of television.

Imagine that.

About the writer: Desmond Bullen is Sale's leading amateur teuthologist. His ambition is to meet Hacker T. Dog.