Wednesday, 29 April 2009
Saturday, 25 April 2009
Thursday, 16 April 2009
Thanks to Catherine for this.
1) What author do you own the most books by?
Sylvia Townsend Warner, with Nancy Mitford, E M Delafield, Patrick Gale and Evelyn Waugh close behind. I also have lots of Gerald Durrell who I loved as a teenager, but who will have to be pruned as EMD continues to expand.
2) What book do you own the most copies of?
I think I no longer have any duplicates, although I did have two or three copies of The Pursuit of Love for a while.
3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Claudia from Penelope Lively's Moon Tiger.
5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children)?
Cold Comfort Farm, The Pursuit of Love, The Diary of a Provincial Lady, I Capture the Castle, and Nancy Mitford's letters.
6) What was your favourite book when you were ten years old?
Probably Little Women, although In the Fifth at Malory Towers was a persistent favourite for many years.
7) What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
8 ) What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
Waterlog for sheer pleasure, The Rest is Noise for awe-inspiring scholarship and insight.
9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
The True Heart by Sylvia Townsend Warner.
10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
I read a lot of books by dead people, so I'm not best placed to judge.
11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
I've just finished This Book will Save Your Life, which would make an amusing film. Films of books are never as good as the pictures in my head.
12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
The Diary of a Provincial Lady.
13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I can't remember having one.
14) What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?
Probably Ann Bannon's pulp lesbian novels, which are highly entertaining.
15) What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?
I've only seen those more frequently performed. I did once see a production of Antony and Cleopatra in which Cleopatra was played by a man in a green silk dressing-gown and a goatee beard. Fairly obscure for Oxford in 1983.
17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
18 ) Roth or Updike?
They both sound equally vile. I love Florence King's anecdote about having her dinner catch fire, and realising she was trying to burn down the house to avoid reading John Updike for a commissioned article.
19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
Never read either.
20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
21) Austen or Eliot?
TS or George? Austen.
22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
23) What is your favorite novel?
I can't pick favourites, but I come back to Cold Comfort Farm, Pride and Prejudice, The Pursuit of Love, I Capture the Castle, Mrs Dalloway, Hardy, EMD and STW over and over again.
Life of Galileo by Brecht, Not I or Happy Days by Beckett
The Art of Losing by Elizabeth Bishop, Snow and Entirely by Louis Macneice, The River by STW, Hardy's poem that starts "Woman much missed ..." and When I set out for Lyonnesse.
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf.
27) Short story?
Sylvia Townsend Warner's A Love Match
28) Work of nonfiction?
I'm not sure if Nancy Mitford's letters count as non-fiction. Clare Harman's biography of STW, or Virginia Woolf's Moments of Being.
29) Who is your favourite writer?
Too many to have one. STW, EMD, Nancy Mitford, Virginia Woolf, Sarah Waters, Salley Vickers.
30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
Probably Ian McEwan, who always starts so well and ends so disappointingly.
31) What is your desert island book?
STW's Collected Poems, which should provide plenty of food for thought during the long hours of lonely contemplation.
32) And… what are you reading right now?
A book called Our Hidden Lives, compiled from Mass Observation diaries and covering the austerity years.
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
Taylor has an excellent resource at his disposal: the letters and diaries of the Ponsonbys, comprising father Arthur, Labour politician and eventual leader of the House of Lords; his wife Dorothea; their conformist son Matthew; and their rebel daughter Elizabeth, who seems to have attended every party held during the 1920s, made a thoroughly unsuccessful marriage, drained her parents of money and died young from the effects of alcoholism. Taylor's sympathies are with the elder Ponsonbys, and it is fairly hard not to agree, but a little more consideration of Elizabeth's reasons for choosing a rackety way of life would have been welcome. Perhaps there simply isn't any evidence of her motivation. Elizabeth's story is a sad and touching one; this, and other similar narratives, prevent the book from being overly infected with the frivolity it depicts; it is a rich source of highly amusing stories. I particularly enjoyed Eddie Gathorne-Hardy teasing his celibate gay butler.
This book reminded me most of a book I read years ago about the Baader-Meinhof group. In both books, the author's distaste for most of his subjects, for their pointless lives, for their limitations, comes strongly off the page. For the Bright Young People, such distaste seems a little harsh. They may have led futile lives, they were certainly silly, but not really so very bad. The final chapter details the successes as well as the failures among this group, but I can't shake the feeling of Taylor's disapproval even for the successes of Robert Byron or Evelyn Waugh.