Good Reading : December January 2006
me my shelf i Hear the story of Narnia before seeing the movie Available from ABC Shop, ABC Centres and other retailers or visit abcaudio.com.au Which author would you most like to meet, and why? I would love to have met Gerald Dur rell. Sadly he is now dead, though I do hope to visit his fabulous zoo in Jersey one day. Equally sadly, Douglas Adams died not so very long ago, way before his time. I’m sure he would have been great to share ideas with. I would also have liked to meet Salman Rushdie – and then I did: I found myself sitting across the aisle from him on a plane to Argentina. He wasn’t very chatty – but then I think he was still under the shadow of a fatwah at the time. I was glad when the plane landed safely! Is there a well-known book you never finished or did not enjoy? Oh dear – should I come clean? I find it hard to condemn a book, even when I have found it aggravating or not well writ- ten or just not quite satisfying. It’s too easy to sit in judgement on other people’s work and just as easy to forget what a huge commitment of time and energy and self a writer puts into a book – any book. Having said all that, I must confess that I found The Da Vinci Code increasingly irritating – compulsively consumable like a bowl of Pringles, but ultimately with too much artificial flavouring and little nourishment. Sorry. Which book/s did you love best as a child? Anything by Gerald Dur rell (as mentioned above), but also adventure and fantasy – Journey to the Centre of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea by Jules Ver ne and The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle … great stuff. No Har ry Potter books in those days, though I would have been addicted if they’d been around! What is your all-time favourite book? I think I’ve already answered that with Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams. However, that has as much to do with my wildlife enthusiasm as it does with writing style. For sheer liter- ary pleasure, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more satisfied at the end of a book than with The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie. Do you have a favourite fictional hero or heroine, and if so why? Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series was the quintessential Everyman in a mind-boggling universe, and Marvin the Paranoid Android revealed how depression could be consistently hilarious. I enjoyed the deadly intelligence of Sally Shears in Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson. A character called Oliver in Julian Bar nes’s books Talking it Over and Love, etc was a well-imagined and amusing acquaintance for a while, if not exactly a hero. Do you have a favourite film of a book, and if so why? So often films of well-loved books can be crushingly dis- appointing – had I never read The English Patient I would have thought the film was good … but it was a pale shadow of the book. Fortunately, the recent Lord of the Rings tr ilogy was a joy to watch again and again – so thank you Peter Jackson for restoring my faith. Blade Runner was an inspired improvement on the original Philip K Dick novella Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Good book, great film. Where are most of the books in your home? 99% are actually in the office – Alison and I work from home a lot of the time and some of our work involves books and writing, so it’s good to have them close by. The other 1% of books is on our bedside tables. Looking at the books on your shelves, is there any one category that dominates? Fiction is definitely dominant. There are others of course – we have a good range of research books both for natural histor y/wildlife purposes and for artistic pur suits. There’s a pinch of biography, some non-fiction, mostly in the form of ‘real life adventures’, quite a bit of kids’ stuff (purely for research purposes of course!) but yes, fiction, fiction, fiction. How are the books on your shelves organised – or aren’t they? They are organised by Alison – that’s how! Although they are spilling out over the shelves a little at the moment (does one ever stop buying books???), they’re separated into broad categor ies and then (mainly with fiction) alphabeti- cally into author s. Do you have a favourite bookshop? (In Australia and/or overseas) Better Read than Dead on King Street, Newtown in Sydney is one of my favourites. It’s a wonderfully comprehensive, independent bookshop, where the staff really know their books and cheerfully give great advice. Plus you can get coffee just next door. Not that coffee and books are totally inseparable in my mind, but if you’re looking for the whole package – books, browsing, coffee and food all in the same place – oh, and you happen to be on Norfolk Island – then The Golden Orb bookshop should also be on your list of places to drop into.