Jon McGregor was born in 1976 in Bermuda. He grew up in Norfolk but has lived in Nottingham since 1999.
His first novel, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, was published by Bloomsbury in 2002. It was longlisted for the year’s Man Booker Prize: McGregor was the youngest contender and only first novelist on the list. The book was shortlisted for both a Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Eurasia Region, Best First Book) and a British Book Award (Newcomer of the Year), and was awarded the Betty Trask Prize and a Somerset Maugham Award. The following year he was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award.
In 2006, whilst continuing to have a number of short stories published, McGregor decided to focus on his novels. So Many Ways To Begin was published by Bloomsbury and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, in addition to being shortlisted for an Encore Award.
His third novel, Even The Dogs, was published in the UK and US in 2010. The paperback edition featured on Channel 4’s TV Bookclub.
A writer of urban realism, McGregor, is an uncompromising, experimental risk taker.
If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things focuses on the ordinary lives of the residents of an inner-city street.
Something bad is going to happen, a terrible event that will change the lives of those that witness it. This event hangs over the book as a wealth of conversations, actions, observations and unspoken thoughts unfold. In a moving, poignant vision of Britain, McGregor studies life, death, everyday relations and the struggle to be heard.
We meet a range of unnamed characters from a forgotten class; all described in 3rd person viewpoint, except the 1st person voice of a young woman who looks back at day’s events. The varied perspectives make up a series of snapshots and changing focus.
McGregor’s structure is cinematic. His writing poetic and fragmented with erratic punctuation. This all makes for an original, adventurous and absorbing debut.
So Many Ways to Begin focuses on the life of David Carter, a long-serving museum curator who harbours dreams of opening his own museum but finds that life doesn’t turn out quite as he expected.
Mainly set in Coventry, the book spans the period from the First World War to the present day.
Each chapter begins with a curatorial description of one of Carter’s personal items which inspires the writing that follows. Whilst the book reads in non-chronological order, Carter’s life follows a routine pattern, if such a thing exists. There is an honest realism in what is a moving study of life, love, hope, disappointment, chance, beginnings and endings. McGregor focuses on the ordinary and everyday where he discovers complexity and warmth.
Even the Dogs is set among the underclass of an anonymous English city. It begins with the sudden death of Robert, a middle-aged alcoholic, who has been found dead in an abandoned flat. The story follows his body’s journey from mortuary to crematorium.
The discovery of the corpse impacts on a group of addicts (mainly heroin) and forgotten members of society. These narrators - it’s written in the first person plural – are unnamed ghosts, victims of overdoses, who help give the book a haunting authenticity.
Family members and acquaintances, most of whom were part of his Robert’s life, come in and out of focus, along with the police and investigators responding to his death.
Blurred timelines and fractured narratives allow for an intimate exploration of the short lives of those living on society’s edge as they seek their next fix. It’s a bleak, uncomfortable read about the consequences of addiction.