Saved by the meme

Such riches as I found over at Litlove’s place: a terrific post about Lolly Willowes, a meme to which I have invited myself and a lovely post about the genius of Whipple. This, my friends, is the beauty of the internet, or at least of the bloggers I have found. I am really never that far from inspiration or that ‘Yes! Exactly!’ reaction when someone writes sympathetically about a book I’ve loved.

And really, thank goodness for that staple of the blogger who is out of all ideas: the meme.  I’m not tagging anyone for this, although of course if you want to play, please do so.

1. What do you think of literary prizes? Good idea or bad?

I am now suspicious of books that have won literary prizes, because I have so often been disappointed by them. So I use some literary awards as a guide to ‘What not to read’. But then again, with Hilary Mantel winning the Man Booker (or whatever it’s called) twice in succession, and with damn good books too, I might be prepared to cast a less jaundiced eye in their general direction.

And, of course, winning a prize can be a tremendous benefit to a small press, and presumably a nice chunk of change to the author, who probably only got 6 advance copies and a ‘Ta very much’.  I am all in favour of independent publishing, even more so now that Random Penguin is on the scene.

2. If you could write any sort of book, what would you write?

Hmmm, choices, choices. Do I go for a powerful, arresting narrative marking the stunning and assured debut of a fresh new talent, which will go on to sell 1258 copies in pb and earn me plaudits but no money?

Or, a right pile of rubbish that I’m too embarrassed to publish under my own name but which sees me shopping all the way to the star-studded movie premiere?

3. Describe your ideal home library/study.

It’s a large, high-ceilinged circular room, with well spaced, tall sash-windows out of which can be viewed open parkland and sea. The sound of the waves is just audible, mingling with that of leaves rustling in the trees. There are heavy, dark velvet curtains at each of the windows, for protection against winter nights. There is a mezzanine floor reached by a small, spiral staircase that is tucked away at one end of the room, and the walls are lined floor to ceiling with bookcases. The bookcases are full and are arranged in alphabetical order or it would impossible to find anything. There is a set of good dictionaries, including the full Liddell-Scott and the Oxford Latin Dictionary.

The room glows with colour, from rugs, pictures and the books themselves. There is a rolling library ladder that means even the most remote shelves can be reached, a volume pulled down, the dust blown off before I sink back into a handily placed, sinfully comfortable armchair, over which a reading lamp throws just the right amount of light. A fire burns companionably, the cats are curled up on a sofa and a huge desk houses a reading lamp, fountain pens, ink, blotters, writing paper and an array of open books; but also a Mac. (My library may be mostly 19th century but it’s got excellent wifi.)

4. Name two new authors whose work you think will last the test of time, and explain your choices.

This is a hard question. A quick review of what I’ve read over the last couple of years shows that I mostly vary between books that have already stood the test of time, and those that have no chance…

Possibly it’s because I’m half-way through Cedilla at the moment but I am so impressed with Adam Mars-Jones. I don’t read much that has that sort of scope, but the richness of both Caret and Cedilla is really impressive. I hope they will last.

And I think I will go for Ian Rankin’s Rebus books. I think they deserve to sit in the crime canon.

5. Which books do you hope to get for Christmas?

Susan Hill, A Question of Identity. I can’t quite put my finger on why I like the Serrailler books so much but they are completely engrossing, casting the net much more widely than most detective fiction, to the point where I sometimes wonder if we’re going to come back to the crime at all.

And a surprise. I know I have a lengthy TBR list but I do always like it when someone finds something that had escaped my attention. But, failing that: a complete set of Malory Towers. I know I’m going to be disappointed but it’s an idea I had that won’t go away.

6.  What’s the last book you did not finish and why?

Girls in White Dresses, by Lauren Close. It was supposed to be funny, and I could sort of see how some of it ought to be funny. I just found it leaden. I almost picked it up again but then I flicked ahead and felt oppressed by the fact that it clearly continued in much the same vein. So, no.

7. Would you accept 20 books that were absolutely perfect for you and dependably brilliant reads, if they were also the last 20 books you could ever acquire?

No. I would gamble on having more books, fewer of which were perfect and brilliant, but always knowing that there were more options out there to be surprised by. You never know, I might stumble across 20 excellent books on my own.

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2 thoughts on “Saved by the meme

  1. litlove

    Oh I am so thrilled you did the meme! And your library is indecently gorgeous – I was sighing, a mezzanine!….a mezzanine!… as I was reading. Love what you say about the boost to a small press from winning a literary prize, and very intrigued now by your choice of Adam Mars-Jones (saw his novel in the book shop today). I also love your choice of Mallory Towers for Christmas. Good, bad, indifferent, what does it matter? Oh the NOSTALGIA!

    So glad, too, that you loved Lolly Willowes and Dorothy Whipple. I do wonder why writing from the 20s and 30s is so good. They are both such clever and insightful writers.

  2. musingsfromthesofa Post author

    Litlove – You are welcome in my library anytime, it has a spare comfortable chair for guests. Yes, I’ve read a lot of Whipple and each time I’m amazed by how much depth and breadth she pulls out of stories that ostensibly have such a narrow focus.

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