Silent Sunday


Luke Williams launches his debut novel, The Echo Chamber, in Edinburgh


 Luke Williams launches his debut novel, The Echo Chamber, in Edinburgh, Scotland

Thursday 26 May 2011 at 6.30pm

Word Power Books        
43-45 West Nicolson Street

Admission Free! Donations welcome!

All Welcome!

“original, brilliant, inconceivable. It gives a reader new ears” Ali Smith

Enter the world of Evie Steppman, born into the dying days of the British Empire in Nigeria. It’s loud and cacophonous. Why? Because Evie can hear things no one else can. Although she’s too young to understand all the sounds she takes in, she hoards them in a vast internal sonic archive. Today, alone in an attic in Scotland, Evie’s powers of hearing are starting to fade, and she must write her story before it disintegrates into a meaningless din. But the attic itself is not as quiet as she hoped. The scratching of mice, the hum of traffic, the tic-toc of a pocket watch and countless other sounds merge with the noises of Evie’s past: her time in the womb, her childhood in Nigeria, her travels across America with her lover …

Luke Williams  was born in 1977. He grew up in Fife, Scotland, and now divides his time between Edinburgh and London. The Echo Chamber  is his first novel.

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”(Saturo)

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We are moving rapidly from an age in which the tendency to treat individual texts as discrete, closed-off entities is over. We are learning to ‘delimit’ boundaries between what is to be included and what excluded. To illustrate the notion of intertextuality, Kristeva (Kristeva) refers to 2 axes: the horizontal connecting the author and the reader and the vertical which connects the text to other texts. Uniting these 2 axes are shared codes: ‘every text is from the outset under the jurisdiction of other discourses which impose a universe on it’.

Intertextuality refers to far more than the ‘influences’ of writers on each other. Traditional notions of authorship encompass originality, creativity, individual expression. However, language is a system which was there before the individual speaker so that when writers write they are also ‘written’ in the sense of being interpreted. To communicate we must deploy existing concepts and conventions. Consequently, whilst our intention to communicate and what we intend to communicate are both important to us as individuals, meaning cannot be reduced to authorial ‘intention’.

A text is… a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations… The writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. His only power is to mix writings, to counter the ones with the others, in such a way as never to rest on any one of them. (Barthes 1977, 146)

Reading and writing are not neutral acts.

Now I have studied neither English literature, nor philosophy and I think I have reached the limits of my ability to discuss linguistics and semiotics. But this is relevant as it helps me to edge towards an understanding of the way that digital technologies are altering the ways we read.

Good pedagogy allows the learner to act first and attempt to make sense later. So it is with my trial of the ‘born digital’ story, Inanimate Alice. I’ve had a shot and am now beginning to grasp more about how the reading experience of my grandchildren will differ (is already differing) so greatly from my own: I talk in order to understand; I teach in order to learn’ (Robert Frost).

I mentioned here the possibility of the screen watching us, adjusting to our perceived needs. Kevin Kelly, from whom I’ve gleaned much for this post,  describes the next generation of e-books thus:

Eventually e-ink paper will be manufactured in inexpensive flexible sheets. A hundred or so sheets can be bound into a sheaf, given a spine and wrapped with two handsome covers. Now the e-book looks very much like a book of old. One can physically turn its pages, navigate the book in 3D, and go back to an earlier place in the book by guessing where the spot was in the stack. To change the book, just tap its spine. Now the same pages show a different tome. Since using a 3D book is so sensual, it might be worth purchasing a very fine one with the most satin, thinnest sheets.

Fascinating though it is to dwell on the various containers that are likely to hold stories this is not at the heart of the changes that are happening. The article continues:

Such flexibility recalls the long expected, but never realized, dream of forking stories. Books that have multiple endings, or alternative storylines. .. there’s no reason images in digital books must remain static

or, I may add, singular. Kelly cites Wikipedia as a prime example of ‘the first networked book’, one that is ‘not only socially read, but socially written’.

The ‘deeply collaborative nature’ of scientific research has always led to joint publications, but Kelly is unsure whether fiction with its ‘self-contained story, unified narrative and closed argument’ will be constructed in a similar way: ‘ the central core of most books will probably continue to be authored by a lone author’.

Interestingly there are some writers who are breaking the mould, one of whom happens to be my son. He and a collaborator, Natasha Soobramanien, have,

recently begun work on a joint novel-length project. This will tell the story of the Chagossian islanders and their illegal expulsion from the Chagos archipelago in the 1960s at the hands of the British government, in order to expedite the leasing of the largest island, Diego Garcia, to the US government for use as a military base. …

This will be a ‘hybrid work’ which uses a variety of documents and texts both fiction and non-fiction.

Luke continues:

Apart from the Italian collective who write as Luther Blissett, I don’t know of other writers currently working this way. Collaborative practice seems to be more common in contemporary art practice.

Interesting times.

The Echo Chamber


Forgive the boasting: my Luke’s book has a publishing date . It’s in the Penguin and Puffin online catalogue. It’s so exciting! It’s been a long time gestating!

The cover for the US edition is completely different. Interesting.

The Echo Chamber

Luke Williams

‘Original, brilliant, inconceivable. It gives a reader new ears’ Ali Smith

Five years ago we were sent the long opening section of a novel-in-progress by debut author Luke Williams, and were so struck by its originality and confidence that we signed it up on the spot. Half a decade later, the novel is finished and we are thrilled to be launching it in the spring. It’s like no other novel you will have read, as Ali Smith hints in her praise for it. Narrated by a woman called Evie with uncannily keen hearing (she could even hear in the womb) it is the story of a childhood in colonial Nigeria, of travels with a lover across America and of Evie’s present-day efforts to record her life and adventures before her powers of listening fade completely …

Luke Williams was born in 1977. He grew up in Fife, Scotland, and now divides his time between Edinburgh and London. The Echo Chamber is his first novel.



Book Festival news


On Saturday, 28th August in the Spiegeltent, Charlotte Square from 9pm Hamish Hamilton authors will read from their works.

My boy, Luke Williams, is among them, reading from ‘The Echo Chamber’ – out next spring!! (I’m getting my hearing aids on 11th October. Go figure!)

I’m so proud.

Do come if you can. I’ll buy you a drink!

See you there?