‘A hugely impressive first novel about music, friendship and obsession’ David Nicholls
The searingly brilliant School of Velocity is now out in paperback, to celebrate, here’s a quickfire interview between Eric and his editor Elena Lappin, to give you a flavour of what to expect from this unmissable debut.
Why did you choose music as the narrative key to Jan’s inner world?
The other day, in Toronto, the photographer Wolfgang Tillmans said he’s glad he quit music earlier in life, only returning to it much later. It’s like an addiction, he said, and I agree. It permeates you in a way that no other art form does, which makes it particularly powerful and subversive. Music can turn the world around you on its side, or upside down, and you may not even realise that it’s happening. For a highly-trained musician like Jan, who plays the piano every day of his life, that power takes on even greater dimensions.
Love and friendship: do you think they are often intertwined, as between Jan and Dirk?
In a best friendship, which is what Jan and Dirk share, love and camaraderie overlap to the point where they are the same thing, even if neither person recognizes it at the time. I don’t think one person can get so close to another, as Jan does to Dirk (and vice versa), without love being the magnet.
Your novel is a visceral take on emotional memory. Was the process of writing it connected to a story of an intense friendship in your life?
The plot of School of Velocity took shape over the course of a night. I was in the Netherlands, visiting the friend of a friend. All I knew was that these two friends had once been very close, and what I saw when I went to this person’s apartment was a version of my own friend’s apartment – or rather, one that tried to be. I recognised many other friendships in that dynamic, and the outlines of what I think is a universal story.
If you could spend a fun day with one of your characters, which one would you choose?
That’s easy – Dirk, eight days out of seven. Dirk would have a plan for the day, and we’d start on that plan, but then he’d change it, and change it again, increase the budget substantially, and end up starting some kind of fire. And it would be the best.
Who is Eric Beck Rubin?
I spend a lot of (too much) mental energy resisting definition and I’m sure I’m not alone that way. If I were to define myself by what I do – a lapsed academic, a Blue Jays fan, an amateur pianist, and now, thanks to School of Velocity, a novelist.