Apr 29, 2022
The author on his early love of the Narnia Chronicles, the allure of spontaneous combustion – and one of the great neglected children’s authors of the 20th century
My earliest reading memory
I was three years old, we lived in Purbrook, near Portsmouth, and if I had been remarkably good my mother would order a book at the local bookshop and a month later we would go and pick it up. I remember a children’s Hiawatha, a beautiful edition of The Pied Piper of Hamelin illustrated by Margaret Tarrant, and an illustrated Mikado – I’d learn the words of the songs without tunes: “Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock from a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block” and so on. Gloriously morbid stuff for a three-year-old.
My favourite book growing up Continue reading...
If you’d asked me at seven or eight it would have been the Narnia books, which I found infinitely re-readable – I wanted to live in them. But if you had asked me at nine or 10 it was The Lord of the Rings. I was convinced it was not only the best book anybody had ever written but that it was the best book anybody ever would write. I just had to find out how it ended, as my school only had the first two books. When I won the school English prize, I asked for The Return of the King as my prize book.
Oct 09, 2020
The author on his friendship with Gene Wolfe, crying over Diana Wynne Jones and falling under the spell of CS Lewis
The book I am currently reading
The Invention of Jane Harrison by Mary Beard. I’m fascinated by Hope Mirrlees, and her relationship with Jane Harrison was one of the ingredients of her life. They collaborated on a book of translated Russian tales, and Harrison’s theories seem integral both to Paris, Mirrlees’s modernist poem and to Lud-in-the-Mist. I’m loving watching Mary Beard deconstruct and re-examine ideas about what biography is in this short but brilliant book. Also Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths by Natalie Haynes. I’m reading it slowly and with delight, an essay at a time, rejoicing in the easy erudition and the way she upends what I thought I knew and gives me something much more interesting in its place.
The book that changed my life Continue reading...
The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. It’s brilliant, much more brilliant than I knew when I read it for the first time. I would not be the writer I am without Wolfe’s friendship, or without taking his lesson that you should write to be reread with increased pleasure by a smart reader.