The Valley has been shortlisted for the 2014 Gordon Burn prize

The Valley is one of the six books shortlisted for the second annual Gordon Burn Prize. This is extremely flattering because of the obvious quality of the other books on the list, and because I’ve been reading Gordon Burn’s writing since I was a teenager. I first came across him when he was writing for The Face in the 1980s.

I remember being struck by a story he wrote about London chefs, and remember a line he used when describing the diners from the point of view of people working in the kitchen. Actually, it wasn’t a line but four words: “Out there – out there – …” The use of repetition and italics said everything about the kitchen staff’s perception of the dining area, and it hadn’t previously occurred to me that you could use style like that in magazine writing.A few years later I tried to do something similar when I was writing about djs.

His books – particularly, to me, Alma Cogan, Somebody’s Husband Somebody’s Son, Happy Like Murderers and Born Yesterday – show what writers can do in a post-Deconstruction world in which reality is textual and fictional. He bridges the New Journalism of the 1950s and 1960s, and the writing described by J. G. Ballard when he said “We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind… We live inside an enormous novel… the fiction is already there. The writer’s task is to invent reality.”