Saturday, October 24, 2020

Books that made me

Every Saturday there's a column in the Guardian Review where a famous author is asked a series of questions about the books in their life.  Today it was Jeffery Deaver.

I am unlikely ever to appear in this column so I decided I'd do it myself on my blog...

1/ The book I am currently reading.

The Weekend by Charlotte Wood. It's about three old friends in their 70s who are spending a weekend together, clearing out the holiday cottage of a friend who has died. It was well reviewed and I was excited when I got it, but now I'm struggling. It's dreary.

2/ The book that changed my life. 

Plotting for Beginners, because it helped me make the move from being someone who just writes funny pieces in The Times to being a novelist.

3/ The book I wish I'd written. 

There isn't one. There are so many books I love, and so many I admire, but none that I wish I'd written. Actually, I find this an odd question. We write what's inside of us, don't we? Fantasy wise, perhaps I wish I'd written a small collection of poems that touched people's hearts. The book itself would be a thing of beauty, with an aesthetically pleasing cover, lovely fonts and delicious endpapers.

4/ The book that had the biggest influence on my writing.

This is a hard question. And the answer varies from time to time. This morning the book that springs to mind is Nora Ephron's Heartburn, because of just one sentence:

" 'Now you can sing these songs to Sam' was part of the disgusting inscription and I can't begin to tell you how it sent me up the wall, the idea of my two-year-old child, my baby, involved in some dopey inscriptive way in this affair between my husband, a fairly short person, and Thelma Rice, a fairly tall person with a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs, never mind her feet, which are sort of splayed.”

This showed me you can do anything you like with a sentence, and how funny you can be while breaking the rules of grammar that I learned at school.

5/ The book I think is most underrated.

I don't know. But I do think that as a genre, well-written children's books are underrated. It is is very hard to write a good children's book, and many people  do not appreciate this.

6/ The book that changed my mind.

Perhaps All the Light We Cannot See, because it made me realise that there are some books set in WW2 that I could enjoy.

7/ The last book that made me cry.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I am currently boring everyone to death telling them how good this novel is. It's interesting, educative, well-written, gripping and very moving.

8/ The last book that made me laugh.

Heartburn, which I just opened in order to check on that sentence. I don't read many funny books, even though I do listen to comedy on the radio, and watch lots of it on screen.

9/ The book I couldn't finish.

Stacks and stacks. I don't believe in continuing to read something I am not enjoying. There are so many fantastic books out there and life is short. That's why I have never wanted to join a bookclub. It smacks too much of homework. This year I gave up on Anna Karenina 40 pages from the end. It looks as though The Weekend might be the next fatality, but it's fairly short, so I will probably buckle down and finish it.

10/ The book I am most ashamed not to have read. 

I think this is a silly question.

11/ The book I give as a gift. 

When I first came across Homestead by Rosina Lippi, I gave a copy to all my close friends. Now I don't give books. Books are so personal: I find it difficult when people give me books as gifts because I feel I have to read them, even if they are not my taste.

12/ My comfort read.

I have a lot of books I class as comfort reads, including Mary Oliver collections,  and (dare I say it?) both the Plotting books, which I dip into for my favourite bits. The last comfort read I turned to was Mary Wesley's Part of the Furniture, which is the only Wesley book I like. Top of my comfort reading is Leaving Home by Garrison Keillor.

13/ The book I'd most like to be remembered for.

Days Are Where We Live. Have you read it yet? Follow the link and read the reviews.

No comments: