Talk by authors Rodge Glass and Morten Ramsland

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Rodge Glass and Morten Ramsland
Morten Ramsland and Rodge Glass, with Jenny Brown.
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Danish author Morten Ramsland and Chesire-born Rodge Glass, now living and working in Glasgow, attracted a full Spiegeltent audience on a cold, wet Sunday morning, as part of the Book Festival's "Wake up to words" event series.

Both writers were born in the Seventies, and there were similarities between their work, their approach to their work and indeed how they dress.

Glass praised the venue and was "happy to have been upgraded", remembering how he had been "put on a muddy patch of grass" outside when he was featured at the festival for the first time a couple of years ago, and suggested that every Book Festival event should be inthe roomy but cosy spiegeltent.

Ramsland is visiting the UK as part of the Danish Cultural Council funded "Danish Invasion" of authors translated into English, and vice versa Glass was part of a Scottish invasion to Copenhagen last year, reading from his work at schools and universities.

Ramsland's second novel Doghead from 2005 has been translated into 13 languages, and was published in English earlier this year. Doghead is a family saga, tracking the story of a Norwegian dysfunctional familly through 20th century Europe. The novel has won great acclaim in its homeland with three major awards, and is being developed into a TV series as well. Presenter Jenny Brown described Ramsland's writing as forceful and having "magic realist tendencies". One reviewer wrote "Ramsland writes as a fire engine going at full speed through a redlight," to which Rodge Glass responded: "How does a fire engine write?"

"Grotesque realism reflects the tone of my writing a little bit better," Ramsland told the audience, as he described how one of the characters in Doghead was surviving only on small tins of fresh air imported from Bergen in Norway. To illustrate his point, he brought forward one of said tins from a plastic bag and handed it to fellow author Glass. Glass later reflected: "I wonder how one does complain about the quality of the contents of a tin of fresh air?"

Before reading a passage from Doghead, Ramsland told how the term "dysfunctional family" for him meant a quite normal family, an ordinary family. Doghead is "not the story of my own family," Ramsland said. "I drew inspiration from my own familiy. There is a treasure of good stories in my own family, and I took the best stories from it."

Rodge Glass agreed that an author's own background plays a huge part in his writing, whether he knows it or admits it or not. Glass said:"You base a lot of what you create on who and what you are." Glass read excerpts from his 2005 debut novel No Fireworks and a short passage from his new book Hope for Newborns, which is being published in 2008. Glass was constantly adressing the audience directly to explain puns or add comments, and at one point the shouted out "Grandma, can you hear me?" pointing to an elderly lady near the scene. "This is my grandma Philly, who's come all the way from Manchester!"

While Doghead spans more than 70 years, No Fireworks takes place over eight days in the life of a 61-year-old alcoholic history teacher, and Hope for Newborns is what Glass describes as a "revolutionary love story".

"I believe it is infinitely better than the first one," Glass said. Humour plays a major part in both authors' writing. Morten Ramslandsaid: "If you are using humour, it's often the right way you can come closer to serious subject matter. It's a better path to the truth."While Glass agreed with this, he added: "I don't think the main thing I'm doing is humour, but I'm pleased when people laugh. It makes mefeel loved."

Glass praised Danish writing in general for being less restrained than English writing. "Danish writers write as if there's only a small amount of readers, not much holding them back."

Ramsland wasn't sure he agreed, and admitted that he had not read any other Danish authors lately. Ramsland ended the event by describing how he felt about his own work being translated into another language.

"It was a shocking experience to read my own novel in English. It sounded wrong. Simply the wrong musicality of the text. There were a lot of changes in there on behalf of the English publisher." Ramsland submitted 25 pages of corrections to the English manuscript, andthought that the published edition of Doghead now better reflected the tone of the original.