Each month Spike Island in partnership with Bristol Festival of Ideas invites a debut novelist to read from and talk about their work in a relaxed, informal setting. Topics of discussion include theme, structure, inspiration and the craft of writing. These sessions are a great way to discover new writing talent and wonderful books.
Randall is a satirical alternative history of the heady years of Cool Britannia and the emergence of the Young British Artists. It asks what would have happened if Damien Hirst had never arrived? If someone else had become the most notorious and influential young British artist?
Early on in Gibbs’ debut we are informed that Hirst was hit and killed by a train in 1989– and the focus of everyone’s attention falls instead on Randall. Randall – a big, lumbering ape of a man – is a genius of language as much as art, supremely able to baffle, bemuse and amuse the press, public and all around him. He makes a fortune, causes chaos, changes the art world – the whole world – and provides brilliant quips every step of the way: “There’s only two things you can do with art: make it, and buy it. Everything else – talking about it, thinking about it, selling it, looking at it – either comes under one of those two, or doesn’t count.”
As well as providing a sharp, smart commentary on art and capitalism, there’s a soft beating heart to Randall. Above everything else, this is a story of love and friendship and loss, as seen through the eyes of Randall’s sidekick, Vincent – a narrator very much in the traditional of Nick Carraway of The Great Gatsby or Charles Ryder of Brideshead Revisited.