INTERVIEW: Eliza Clark | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Richard Kenworthy

Words: Anna Disley

In Boy Parts, the incendiary debut novel from Eliza Clark, protagonist Irina obsessively takes explicit photographs of the average-looking men she persuades to model for her, scouted from the streets of Newcastle. It’s a pitch-black comedy both shocking and hilarious, fearlessly exploring taboos of sexuality and gender roles in the 21st Century.

Irina is an unreliable narrator; she creates artwork that subverts the male gaze, making ordinary men vulnerable at the hands of a strong female. Rather than being an overtly feminist character, this trait appears as more of a conduit for her sociopathy, as Eliza explains. I think Irina is pretty a-political. Her art work (in my interpretation of it, any way) is purely an expression of her preoccupation with male submission. However, I do think it would be very easy to interpret her work as feminist, devoid of the context of her personality. I suppose you could look at this as a meta-commentary on the way we often ascribe a non-existent political motive to the creative work of women, and other creatives from marginalised groups, with zero context other than their identity.”

It’s a pitch-black comedy both shocking and hilarious, fearlessly exploring taboos of sexuality and gender roles in the 21st Century.

The novel is an interesting exploration of identity politics, and at times Irina is quite disdainful of her subject and their ‘virtue signalling’.Because she is insincere, and devoid of empathy for other people, she sees all political engagement as ‘virtue signalling’, something which is exclusively calculated, hypocritical and insincere. I also think Irina has a problem with anyone who might think they’re better than her. She’s deeply narcissistic, but she hates herself, and this internal conflict leads her to project all of her worst personality traits onto the people around her.”

Having moved to London from her hometown of Newcastle, Eliza is openly critical of the London-centric art world in the novel, its snobbishness and appropriation of working classness.Jokes about the art world being pretentious is somewhat low hanging fruit, but it is hard to resist!” She admits. Eliza shares the frustration of her protagonist, who struggles to make ends meet in London and ends up moving back North, although she is far more positive about region’s vibrant creative scene. “Irina sees having to return to Newcastle (not having the means to independently support herself in London) as a huge failure. I live in London again now, but the city did and still does feel like a black hole, sucking in all of the money and the jobs and the talent. Post-Brexit, it feels like the politics of Being or Not Being in London have become very weighty, particularly in the creative industry. Living between Newcastle and London, I’ve definitely felt the impact of being economically unable to live independently in London, the frustration of being locked out of career opportunities in Newcastle, and the guilt of moving back to London, effectively following the jobs and abandoning Newcastle’s vibrant creative scene which, despite the lack of money, is full of people doing fantastic things. It’s something I was very interested in exploring.”

Eliza Clark’s Boy Parts is out on 23rd July via Influx Press

Anna Disley is the executive director of New Writing North, the regional agency established to support writers in the North of England. Sign up for their quarterly Northern Bookshelf newsletter for more insight into regional writers

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