Good Reading : October 2006
OCTOBER 2006 ı goodreading 9 me my shelf i ● What are you reading now, and why? I am reading a book by Professor James English called The Economy of Prestige, about cultural prizes, one on the unpublished work of the late Malcolm Bradbury by his son Dominic Bradbury, one that is a retelling of the Old Testament story of Sampson by David Grossman, some poetry by Harold Pinter, and I’ve just finished a novel set in wartime London by Sarah Waters. Why? Because I am interviewing them all for ‘The Book Show’. Depending on the length of the book and the date of the interview, I have to stagger the reading very early in the morning, after the show and in the wee small hours. I am a book juggler, and because I am obsessive and slightly neurotic I have to read every word. ● Who are your favourite authors? I don’t really have favourite authors, although many of those I like are dead. This might be because dead authors can’t disappoint you, either with their new book or in the flesh. ● Which books have had the most influence on your lifestyle or philosophy? I don’t have a lifestyle or a philosophy that I can put my finger on. I love novels that can transport me to times and places and introduce me to people that I could never know without them. They teach you empathy, which I think is a very good trait to encourage in a human being. ● Which author would you most like to meet, and why? I’d like to interview Philip Roth, as he is famously difficult and can be gr umpy. He’d be a challenge to say the least. I have read a lot of Philip Roth even though I have not had to do so for an interview, which tells me I must really like his work. ● Is there a well-known book you never finished? Yes. Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. And Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain. They were both too long and far too boring. Because I studied science at university and not literature, I was never forced to read anything much after finishing high school. I am sor ry about this in one sense – having a fine and clever teacher to take your hand and lead you through the canon would have been fantastic. On the other hand, maybe I would have ended up hating literature with the wrong teacher. Anyway I took things into my own hands and have been reading great literature for years in my summer hols. Always self-improving. Maybe that’s my lifestyle and philosophy after all! ● Which book/s did you love best as a child? All the Noddy Books, as they are all I had for quite a while. An abridged version of Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies, and later Enid Blyton’s The Folk of the Faraway Tree. ● What is your all-time favourite book? My Mother’s House by Collette. ● Do you have a favourite fictional hero or heroine? Jo in Little Women because she is so very plucky. ● Do you have a favourite film of a book? Dr Zhivago, because Julie Christie is so pretty and Omar Sharif is so handsome and because of the furry hats. ● Where are most of the books in your home? In my study, in the spare room, in the lounge room and in the hall. ● Looking at the books on your shelves, is there any one category that dominates? Lots of fiction, some reference books, poetry, history and quite a bit about jour nalism and the media. Also the dictionaries and workbooks of the languages I have tried to learn from time to time – French, Ger man, Russian,Yiddish, Polish and Hebrew. ● How are the books on your shelves organised – or aren’t they? First come best dressed. And the survivors of the great moving house book cull of 2005. ● Where is your favourite place to read? On my verandah in summer and on my couch in winter and in bed all year. ● Do you have a favourite bookshop? I hate bookshops because they remind me of work, and when my family and friends suggest we go to a bookshop on the weekends or on holidays I plead insanity and wait for them outside and have a coffee instead. Piles of books make me feel guilty about the books I can’t possibly cover on the show, the books I should have read, the books that are brilliant that I will never get to see, the books in foreign languages that I will never read … and so on. ramona koval Ramona Koval is familiar to ABC Radio audiences through her long and varied career on air. She became a fixture in the literary world after joining Radio National’s ‘Books and Writing’ program in 1994, and this year began presenting ‘The Book Show’ on a daily basis. Ramona has appeared at the Edinburgh International Book Festival for the last eight years, and some of her long interviews with significant writers were collected in the book Tasting Life Twice in 2005. In 1995 she won the Order of Australia Media Award.