Booker Prize winner Douglas Stuart on his debut novel 'Shuggie Bain' | Louisiana Channel



“Although I draw on a lot of autobiographical details of my own life, I grew up in the same socioeconomic poverty, as Shuggie did. I was raised on government benefits; I am the son of a single mother who struggled and lost the battle with addiction and certainly I was a queer boy in a place that was incredible masculine. But it is a work of fiction, I use all of those themes and feelings to inform the book”.

Douglas Stuart always dreamt about becoming a writer but was trained as a textile designer and has had a career as a designer in New York, which he now abandoned to be a write on full time.

“My mother and I was often together alone, and I lost my mother, when I was 16. As a child of a parent with addiction you have a lot of coping strategies to keep them happy. And I realized that when I was seven or eight that one of the ways that I could keep my mother’s attention on me was to sit down and write her memoirs. As a working-class woman she felt very over-looked. There was much stigma around her addiction and people didn’t want to look at it. And my mother would dedicate what I wrote “for Elizabeth Taylor who knows nothing about love”.”

“No matter what was happening at home what we had and didn’t have, she didn’t want the world to know that, so how we looked and how we carried ourselves, also how clean and well-appointed our house was that was very important to my mother. And it was also something that working class women had control over, when they didn’t have control over a lot of other things.”

“Glasgow can be quite a grey backdrop, very masculine and she is just this very bright character. Her veneer of how fantastic she looks; how vibrant she belies what is happening on the inside. She is disintegrating as a character; she is coming apart almost like a flower that is fading”. “That was part of my own mother’s coping mechanism with addiction.”

“Shuggie was a fun character to write, he did nothing but love his mother, almost like an engine of love in her life. Agnes in the book is almost the sun in the center of the universe, until she starts to collapse. Shuggie orbits her like a moon. He is the youngest son of three children and there is a very different perspective than the other siblings that he has. But what happens before he has any concept of himself is otherd by the other boys and men around him. It is not that the other boys and men are wrong, it is just a time of extremely narrow masculinity. A lot about the book is about why can’t he be normal.”

Douglas Stuart was born 1976 in Glasgow, Scotland. He was the youngest of three siblings. His mother died from alcoholism-related health issues when he was 16. After his mother’s death he lived with his oldest brother before moving into a boarding house when he was 17. Stuart moved to New York when he was 24 where he worked in the fashion industry as a textile designer for more than 20 years. Stuart has now quitted his job as a designer to become a full-time writer. More novels from his hand are to be published.

Douglas Stuart was interviewed on stage by journalist and editor Synne Rifbjerg at the Louisiana Literature festival in August 2021 at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark.

Cameras and edit: Jakob Solbakken
Produced by Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2021.

Supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet and C.L. Davids Fond og Samling

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