Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

I'm happy to be mummy's boy

    William Sutcliffe is a novelist concerned to celebrate an important relationship

    William Sutcliffe is not anticipating a call from the compilers of the Man Booker Prize shortlist for his new novel, Whatever Makes You Happy (Bloomsbury £10.99). “If you are writing about young people, you are disqualified from every literary prize,” Sutcliffe claims. “You are also disqualified if you are funny, use lots of dialogue, or write about contemporary Britain — everything I tend to do.”

    But Sutcliffe, 37, the fresh-faced author of cult success Are You Experienced?, says he is not unduly bothered — “some writers are poisoned by setting literary prizes as a goal”. But he adds somewhat acidly: “In fiction, being a bit boring can help you to appear a better writer.”

    His new book addresses a theme Sutcliffe believes is taboo — the relationship between men and their mothers. “You’ll never see an A-list actor — George Clooney, Tom Cruise or Harrison Ford — have a relationship with his mother. If you did, the reaction would be: ‘Look at this guy, he is such as loser.’ A lot of men are quite close to their mothers. Why be ashamed?”

    Sutcliffe is indeed close to his mother, although he is keen to point out that none of the relationships in the book resembles theirs. “There is a Jewish mother in the book but she is quite reticent. I resent that Maureen Lipman BT-ad stereotype.”

    The other important female in Sutcliffe’s life is his wife, the novelist Maggie O’Farrell. “She reads my manuscripts and gives me advice and support, and I do the same for her,” Sutcliffe says. “Being published can be such a terrible experience that it helps to be with someone who understands it.”

    It is also handy for childcare. As Sutcliffe and O’Farrell both work from home (currently Edinburgh, but they intend to return to London this year), their four-year-old son Saul has always been looked after by his parents.

    Sometimes, though, Sutcliffe pines for something other than sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day. He tries to mix his novel writing with journalism and screen-writing, but realises his life is always going to lack the glamour of his lifelong friend, Sacha Baron Cohen: “He is a genuine A-list guy. I don’t get to see him much because he lives in LA now, but we are still good mates.” A novelist’s life is different: “Sometimes having a letter to post is really exciting because it gets me out of the house.”

Features

I couldn't cope without Shabbat

Rachel Creeger

Thursday, November 10, 2016

I couldn't cope without Shabbat
Features

Arts Agenda

Anonymous

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Arts Agenda
Features

You didn't always have to be Jewish

Michael Freedland

Thursday, May 19, 2016

You didn't always have to be Jewish
Features

Making art from an intimate ritual

Charlotte Oliver

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Making art from an intimate ritual
Features

The man behind the masks

Charlotte Oliver

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The man behind the masks
Features

The power of humour and how to spot a Jew

Ashley Blaker

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The power of humour and how to spot a Jew
Features

'I always felt something was missing'

Charlotte Oliver

Thursday, September 15, 2016

'I always felt something was missing'
Features

Making up her own YouTube success

Lianne Kolirin

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Making up her own YouTube success
Features

Me? Well, I am a good Jewish joker

Mark Maier

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Me? Well, I am a good Jewish joker