Memes: I’ve been getting them per email and ignoring them for years. But since this one is about books, and since it comes as a challenge from my friend bloglily, I’m doing it. Please note that she insists on a context, not just answers. Here it goes:
So, my fourth novel’s just won a slew of prizes, and I’m back in my home country for a holiday. They haul me off the beach for a quick TV interview. I’m looking Euro-chic; all in black, thin (this is fantasy, right) and wearing stilettos (in which I can walk without looking like a duck). I’ve got really big sunglasses but the director of the show has begged me to take them off, so they are perching on my head. I’m elegant, cool, relaxed. Here’s the interview.
1. One book that changed your life.
When I was seventeen, I fell in love with a character in a play. It’s a text, so I’m sure it counts. Called Crystal Clear, the play is a three-hander about a man with diabetes whose relationship with his girlfriend is going awry. He starts to fall in love with a blind woman, who is able to sympathise with him as he too begins to lose his sight. The play was put on at my school, and I auditioned for a part. I didn’t get one, so chose to stay on as prompt. At the time I was in a dead-end relationship with someone who restricted me. I was so in love with the character in the play – who I got to see night after night – that I dumped my useless boyfriend and got on with being myself and not someone else’s version of me.
2. One book that you’ve read more than once.
The Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter. A beautiful, evocative story whose storms and tragedy appealed enormously to me as an adolescent. At first, I took it out of the library whenever I wanted to read it, but eventually I had to have my own copy.
3. One book you’d want on a desert island.
I think for intelligent human company, love and perspicacity it would have to be my collected works of Jane Austen.
4. One book that made you laugh.
I nearly drowned myself in the bath reading the opening chapters of David Sedaris’s Naked.
5. One book that made you cry.
What I Loved by Siri Husdvedt – an aching description of parents mourning the death of a child. Their pain was so physical I felt it myself.
6. One book that you wish had been written.
My grandmother’s memoirs. Only married for six years, she broke with cultural norms by remaining resolutely single, raising her kids and pursuing her own interests and career. She owned almost nothing, practiced unconditional love and was the most spiritual person I’ve ever known. She laughed easily and made the best egg mayo sandwiches.
7. One book that you wish had never been written.
I remember being repulsed to nausea by Will Self’s My Idea of Fun, but I can’t really wish any book unwritten.
8. One book you’re currently reading.
I’m reading the wonderful Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. Written during WW2, it describes various families as they cope with what war brings. Tragically, she died in Auschwitz before she could finish her planned symphony of five books. She writes with great wit, is amazingly insightful into people’s motives, and she orchestrates a wide and colourful cast. I’m loving it.
9. One book you’ve been meaning to read.
I’ve got John Irving’s Until I Find You next to my bed, waiting for me to be finished with Suite Francaise. I love a great big stonking read, and this fits the bill as it’s over 800 pages.
I put on my sunglasses, leave the studio and return to the beach.