A query, an announcement and a meme today. First the query: I am having all kinds of trouble accessing blogs from the blogroll. It’s like the site gets stuck on an old post – sometimes from weeks back – and refuses to let me access the more recent material. It seems as if the blog has been lost in a fold of cybertime, or stuck in an internet time warp. Does anyone else have this problem, and even better, know how to fix it? And if I haven’t visited you for a while, I’m so sorry, but it’s probably not for want of trying!
The announcement: Having scared myself silly with the thought of delivering a finished manuscript to the publisher in a year’s time, give or take a week or two, I recognise the necessity of posting every other day for a little bit. I’m not very happy with this decision because blogging is such good fun, but I didn’t want to change what I did, so instead I’m obliged to change the frequency with which I do it. I do hope you’ll bear with me, and keep visiting.
Finally the meme. I threatened to invent another one, and here it is. I’d be delighted if anyone else felt like having a go.
1. First book to leave a lasting impression? Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. I read it in one sitting when I was about 13 and it took about 24 hours for the imprints of the wicker chair I’d been sitting in to ease out of my flesh. I’d always loved reading, but until then I had no idea what a book could really do to you.
2. Which author would you most like to be? I always used to say Colette, until I read her biography. Now I think I’d say Ali Smith. She has the talent to write quite remarkable books, I think, genre-defying, innovative, unique books. I’m cheating somewhat here because we used to be very good friends and she happens to be the wisest person I’ve ever known. It was a shame; I moved away and had a baby, she moved house and became famous, and so we fell out of touch. I would love so much to meet up with her again and keep hoping that fate will arrange it for me.
3. Name the book that has most made you want to visit a place? As a teenager I was obsessed with the tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. So, inevitably, I was longing to visit Tintagel in Cornwall, which is reputedly the site for Camelot. We did go and, well, the fantasy was better.
4. Which contemporary author will still be read in 100 years time? I’ll play it safe and say Margaret Atwood. But I think that Kazuo Ishiguro will probably make it, and Julian Barnes, too.
5. Which book would you recommend to a teenager reluctant to try ‘literature’? John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids. Classy prose and sheer terror.
6. Name your best recent literary discovery? Richard Russo is very high up there. I have every intention of working my way through his collected works. But I suppose the best of the summer reading so far has been The Great Gatsby. Idealisation, melancholia, nostalgia – how much better could it get?
7. Which author’s fictional world would you most like to live in? Virginia Woolf’s. I love the civilised restraint and the serenity that seeps out of Woolf’s pages, even if the gender politics of the era left a little to be desired. I particularly love her descriptions of the academic world; the lone figure bent over the textbook late at night, the voices calling to one another in the courtyard below, reminding us of the other, physical world, while inside we are plunged into the fizzy mental effort of creative thought. I’m always delighted if I manage to have a ‘Woolf’ moment in my research.
8. Name your favourite poet? Of the greats, it has to be Rilke. But of the contemporary scene, I’m torn at the moment between Sophie Hannah and Wendy Cope, with Carol Ann Duffy coming up on the outskirts. Oh dear, I didn’t do very well to narrowing it down to one there, did I?
9. What’s the best non-fiction title you’ve read this year? Ian Hamilton’s Against Oblivion: Some lives of the twentieth-century poets. 45 vignettes exploring the lives and works of poets including Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Stevie Smith, ee cummings, Rupert Brooke, Elizabeth Bishop, Phillip Larkin and Ted Hughes. If I could write with this much elegance and insight, I would be one happy woman.
10. Which author do you think is much better than his/her reputation? I have to say Proust. He’s seen as being difficult and long-winded and hard to read, and he’s one of the most beautiful, joy-inducing authors I know. N’est-ce pas? all those at Involuntary Memory?