Good Reading : September 2006
SEPTEMBER 2006 ı goodreading 7 me my shelf i ● What are you reading now, and why? Peter Carey’s Theft. I have always loved his novels, his way with words, the speed and magic of his imagination. I am particularly enchanted by this novel because the thread of his Bacchus Marsh childhood runs through it with Australian words I haven’t heard or read for years. More, he knows the real meaning of The Magic Pudding. I always read at least three books; the second book I am reading is Tony Judt’s Postwar, a prodigious work of history by a contemporary historian whom I admire more than – almost – any other (reading history has become a passion with me). Postwar tells the story of Europe since the end of World War II. Its scope and knowledge are breathtaking. Chapter 1, ‘The Legacy of War’, should be force-fed to every politician. Otherwise I read thrillers, crime novels, detective stories: Henry Porter’s Brandenburg is my cur rent one – he’s often compared to John Le Car ré … addictive stuff. ● Who are your favourite authors? Not in order: Charles Dickens, Henry Handel Richardson, David Malouf, AS Byatt, Michael Holroyd,Vladimir Nabokov, Rosamond Lehmann, Peter Carey, Angela Carter, Julian Bar nes, Antony Beevor, Paul Preston, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ivan Turgenev. ● Which books have had the most influence on your lifestyle or philosophy? All of Charles Dickens: for me, the great storyteller. I know he was a rotten husband, but his books beat with a moral and humane heart. Because of him I have always believed you can change the world by telling, writing or publishing a good story. ● Which author would you most like to meet, and why? Henning Mankell. I would love to be able to write crime novels as good as his are, and also, save for the fact that I know nothing of his aptitude as a husband, for the same reasons as I admire Charles Dickens. ● Is there a well-known book you never finished? The usual: James Joyce’s Ulysses – I lack the intellectual rigour and concentration required. ● Which book/s did you love best as a child? Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery. I was Anne, even though I had braces and hor rid curly hair instead of red hair and freckles: but the mortifications of childhood were the same. ● What is your all-time favourite book? Henry Handel Richardson’s Maurice Guest. I have exhausted myself with this novel, one of the great romantic novels of Western Europe but published at the wrong time – 1908 – and by a writer from too small a country to reach the world readership she would have achieved had she been a member of any European or American literary establishment. It is a massive, consuming novel about music, philosophy and erotic, obsessive love. I always see it as a Russian Australian novel, and I treasure it for its lush perfections and imperfections. ● Do you have a favourite fictional hero or heroine? No, I don’t, I identify with every hero and heroine I read about. ● Do you have a favourite film of a book? LA Confidential by James Ellroy. Good thriller. Marvellous film. I am a great fan of Russell Crowe. ● Where are most of the books in your home? They are everywhere, and on display everywhere, like paint- ings, because I love to look at book jackets – after thirty years as a book publisher, the way a book looks is always important to me. And I have to be sur rounded by them, they are my security blanket. ● Looking at the books on your shelves, is there any one category that dominates? No: all of human life is there. Not much poetry though, I can’t read poetry. ● How are the books on your shelves organised? All the Virago titles are filed separately, divided into Virago Modern Classics and others, all filed under author, A to Z. The rest of my library is filed by author, A to Z. Australia has its own section, as do dictionaries and reference books. In my study I have all my books about France. These are not filed alphabetically. As I have spent the last ten years reading about France for Bad Faith, I know exactly where every book is. ● Where is your favourite place to read? In bed. I read for at least half an hour when I wake up, longer if I have the time. Then here and there during the day, mostly on the sofa in my sitting room, or in the garden. ● Do you have a favourite bookshop? Daunts Bookshop in Holland Park, just around the cor ner from my home. carmen callil Australian-born CARMEN CALLIL headed off to London after she graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1960, and has lived there ever since. In 1972 she founded Virago Press, the pioneering feminist publishing house, and in 1982 became managing director of Chatto & Windus and The Hogarth Press. In 1999 she co-wrote, with Colm Tóibín, The Modern Library: The Best 200 Novels in English since 1950 and this year her picaresque tragicomic story of a French war criminal and his Australian-born wife, Bad Faith, was published.