About


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Jon McGregor would like to be an anonymous recluse who spreads lies and misinformation about himself in order to redirect attention to the only thing which ultimately matters, the body of work.

But he’s not. So what follows, below, is a year-by-year biographical sketch of his life and work to date.

For much briefer and press-ready biogs, as well as photos and other downloadable press information see the sidebar to the left.

2014

Jon McGregor lives in Nottingham, with his wife and two children.

2012

Jon’s new book, a collection of short stories, titledĀ This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You, is published by Bloomsbury, to positive reviews from The Observer, The Guardian and The Daily Mail, amongst others.

2011

This year, the paperback edition of Even The Dogs is published, and features on Channel 4′s TV Bookclub. Laila Rouass and Jo Brand are particularly keen on it.

An article about a group of older Irish men making a long-delayed return visit to Ireland is published in the Guardian Weekend magazine; later in the year, a short story, We Wave And Call is published in the Guardian Weekend’s fiction summer special.

Jon finishes a collection of short stories which will be published in 2012, titled This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You.

Also, he receives an honorary doctorate from the University of Nottingham, and is made an honorary lecturer in their School of English Studies.

2010

Even The Dogs is published in the UK and US. Jon does readings in London, Bath, Nottingham, Hay, Edinburgh, Dartington, Toronto, New York, York, Sheffield, Cambridge, Rayleigh, Manchester, and Nottingham again.

In Toronto, he addresses a crowd of students who have studied If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things as part of the Literature For Our Time course taught by the excellent Professor Nick Mount. He also attends a launch party for Even The Dogs at the famous Ben McNally Bookstore; the eponymous Mr McNally is absent, having been “shipwrecked in the Galapagos Islands”.

Later in the year, Jon starts work with a group of students at Ellis Guilford School in Nottingham, as part of the First Story project.

A story, If It Keeps On Raining is shortlisted, and placed runner-up, in the BBC National Short Story Award.

2009

Jon is mostly busy this year editing and re-editing and proof-reading and cover-approving and copy-approving and generally preparing for the publication of Even The Dogs, about which he is actually pretty excited.

He does a reading in Bolton with the poets Matthew Welton and Kathryn Simmonds.

He teaches his first Arvon course, at Moniack Mhor near Inverness, and wonders again what writing is and how it works and how to talk about it.

2008

Portrait of My Father, a 400 word essay about his father, is commissioned by Granta Magazine. Later reprinted in the Guardian Weekend magazine (alongside four others) (and under the wrong spelling of his name), it soon becomes the piece of writing about which he receives by far the most comments of anything he’s written. He’s not sure why this is.

He does readings at the Latitude festival and, in quick succession, in Northampton, Grimsby, and Inverness.

He finishes a first draft of Even The Dogs, initially by mistake.

2007

Which Reminded Her, Later, a short story, is published by Granta Magazine, no 99.

Close, a short story commissioned by the Cheltenham Festival and set in Kyoto, is broadcast by Radio 4.

If Nobody Speaks Of Remarkable Things is chosen to be one of the Bloomsbury “21 books for the 21st century” promotion to celebrate their 21st anniversary. He is given a mug to mark the occasion.

Waterstone’s include him in their “25 authors to watch” promotion, to celebrate their 25th anniversary. He is given a glass trophy to mark the occasion.

He considers launching a “31 great beers” promotion to mark his 31st birthday.

He does readings in Glasgow, Cheltenham, Hamburg, Leipzig, and Berlin. Two people come to the reading in Berlin.

Forgotten Man of the Antarctic, an article about the great, sad, strange Duncan Carse who attempted to live alone on the island of South Georgia in the 1960s, is published by the Guardian Weekend magazine.

2006

So Many Ways To Begin is published, and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

He does readings in Portsmouth, Edinburgh, Green Man, Greenbelt, Nottingham, London, Sutton Coldfield, Charleston, Kettering, Aberdeen, Ely, Ipswich, Beverley, Ilkley, Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. Some of these are more fun than others.

He takes the train from Vancouver to Toronto, thus almost completing a circumnavigation of the globe by rail. Except for the wet bits, obviously.

He’s a founding member of Nottingham Writer’s Studio, a workspace and resource centre, which opens for business in July.

2005

He finishes So Many Ways To Begin.

He becomes a father.

Some of his Antarctic diaries are translated into the medium of contemporary dance for a production by the
Retina Dance Company

His piece about the MSF clinics in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan is published in the Sunday Times magazine.

2004

As a fellow on the British Antarctic Survey / Arts Council England Artists & Writers Fellowship Programme, he spends five and a half weeks on a ship trying to get to the British research base of Rothera on the Antarctic peninsula.
More details here.

At the invitation of Medecins Sans Frontieres and the Sunday Times, he travels to the Nuba Mountains of Sudan and visits three health clinics there, each of them a long day’s walk apart in an area which makes him finally realise what people mean when they talk about ‘a lack of infrastructure’.

He visits Japan, travelling by train from Nottingham and making use of the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian railway, a trip made possible by the Betty Trask Prize, and promises to write about it one day.

He is a guest at the Santa Maddalena writing retreat in Italy, where he completes what turns out to be a hugely flawed first draft of So Many Ways To Begin.

He makes enquiries about the tax benefits of being out of the country for more than six months, before remembering that “tax management” is a fancy description for the deeply misguided and fundamentally unpatriotic act of ducking your responsibilities to your fellow citizens.

The First Punch, a short story which later develops into a key episode in So Many Ways To Begin, is published by Granta Magazine, 83.

The First Thing That Happened, a story which also later develops into a key episode in So Many Ways To Begin, is published by Conjunctions Magazine in the US.

He decides to try and stop turning short stories into key episodes in later novels.

2003

His first novel, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things is awarded the Betty Trask Prize and a Somerset Maugham award. He remembers that the first book he loved, Ian McEwan’s First Love, Last Rites also won the Somerset Maugham award. This is pretty exciting.

He is shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award.

He stops writing the book which will eventually be called So Many Ways To Begin and starts writing a book about a man found dead in his flat. He stops writing this, and goes back to So Many Ways.

He quits his last proper job, a part-time role taking notes for students with disabilities at the university. He loses any sense of a distinction between weekends and week-days, and almost misses it.

He goes on a march in London against the looming war in Iraq, knowing full well that even two million people on the streets won’t make any difference. Somewhere off Goodge Street he sees a man peering from the window of his handsome Georgian townhouse, plotting a novel about a man who lives in a handsome Georgian townhouse and has a nice car.

2002

His first novel, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, is published, and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. He climbs Ben Nevis on the day of publication, and although this is a coincidence it feels appropriate. There isn’t much of a view from the top.

He quits his job in the restaurant.

What The Sky Sees, one of the stories from the Everyone Is Fine collection, is published in Granta Magazine, 78.

On the front, it says “Introducing Jon McGregor”. This is very very exciting.

2001

He finishes his novel. His agent sends it out to publishers, and every few days he gets a phone call at work saying that someone else has turned it down.

A couple of weeks later, he gets a phone call at work – he is peeling potatoes at the time – saying that Bloomsbury have bought the book. He opens a bottle of wine, and carries on peeling the potatoes.
He buys a house, and leaves the floating world behind.

2000

He works in a call-centre, and then later gets a job in a restaurant. He waits tables at first, before upgrading to pot-washer. It’s less stressful.

He gets married.

He goes to Japan, and discovers what he needs to do to finish his novel.

He lives on a boat, and spends a lot of time trying to fix it.

1999

He moves to Nottingham.

He buys a narrow-boat, and lives on it.

He finishes a short collection of long stories called Everyone Is Fine, And Lying To Everyone Else. He sends an extract of it to an agent, and one thing leads to another, and he becomes ‘represented’. When he first shows this letter to someone, they point at the “Wylie Agency” letterhead and say, “it says willy”. This is how his friends help to keep his feet on the ground.

The agent sends the short collection of long stories to some publishers, who all very reluctantly decide not to publish it. (Publishers do reluctance very well, he comes to discover). The agent suggests writing a novel instead. He gets started.

He works in a bakery, a post-room, a sorting office, a t-shirt factory, and, on the day before going to the Knightsbridge offices of his new agent, outside a new pound shop in Barnsley. In a bear costume.

1998

His first collection of extremely short stories, Cinema 100, is published in an anthology by Pulp Faction.

He graduates from the University of Bradford with a BSc in Media Technology & Production.

He moves to Sheffield, and works in an academic bookshop for 3 months. This is his first and last proper full-time job.

He meets the girl who will later become his wife, and goes a-wooing.

In Devon, somebody hits him in the face with a cricket bat. His teeth go through his lip, and his mouth swells up until he looks like a disappointed fish. He recovers.

1994-1997

He studies media production and things at the University of Bradford. He stops drinking for two years, and thus creates vast windows of time in which he can write without fear of interruption. He writes the very short stories which make up Cinema 100, and most of the stories which go on to become Everyone Is Fine, And Lying To Everyone Else.

In 1995, he spends most of his summer lying down in front of bulldozers in an attempt to stop them building a road in Kent. He fails.

In 1997, he goes to Bermuda with his brother. They look for their roots.

1988-1994

He lives in Thetford, Norfolk, with his family. He goes to Charles Burrell High School, where he gets some GCSEs, and to the City College in Norwich, where he gets some A-Levels.

He rides his bike a lot. He has a season ticket at Norwich City. In 1989, he is at an FA Cup semi-final in Birmingham when news comes through of some crowd trouble at Hillsborough, and when he does his paper round the next morning he has to push the papers through the letterboxes with his eyes closed.

He writes a lot of terrible poetry, and writes P-O-E-T on his knuckles, partly because he saw John Hegley do it once and partly because he thinks it will impress girls. It doesn’t.

In August 1994, somebody gives him their email address. It’s the first time he’s seen such a thing. He has no idea what to do with it.

1980-1987

He lives in Norwich with his family. He goes to Heartsease First and Middle schools. He does stuff like playing football and climbing trees and reading the Beano and reading Swallows and Amazons. He gets a lot of nosebleeds, and will later sympathise strongly with the Richard Pryor character in the film “Moving”. He does some fighting, once or twice, but it doesn’t go well.

1977-1980

He lives in Newcross, South London, with his family. He doesn’t remember much about this bit, except busy roads, balconies, and waiting outside a school for his sister.

1976

In February, he is born in Bermuda, a land of endless sunshine, palm trees, glorious beaches, scrubbed white houses, and the ocean. In September, his family move to Newcross, South London.

Cheers.