Sunday 22 April 2012

The Beginner's Goodbye

Shoulda read a few reviews before purchasing Marilynne Robinson's When I Was a Child I Read Books. I thought it would be a novel like the wonderful Gilead but it was a collection of essays and unfortunately they didn't speak to me. If anyone would like my copy do let me know ... I ought to do a giveaway!

I've always hoped to find a pristine copy of Rumer Godden's Black Narcissus in a second-hand book store instead of numerous copies of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but I need search no more. Virago Modern Classics have acquired fifteen Rumer Godden titles including Black Narcissus . I am so pleased about this. The Greengage Summer is my favourite coming-of-age novel and Rumer Godden is long overdue for a popular revival.

Very much enjoyed Anne Tyler's latest novel The Beginner's Goodbye but I don't think it is quite on a par with her great novels Breathing Lessons or Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. Aaron Woolcott's wife is killed when an oak tree smashes into their house while she is sitting out on the sunporch. While he is struggling to cope with the grief and loss his wife revists him, suddenly reappearing when he is shopping for vegetables or falling into step beside him as he strolls along the pavement. Whenever she appears she looks wistful or unhappy.

If you've read The Accidental Tourist you will remember that Macon writes travel books for people who don't like to travel. Tyler has some fun with a similar theme in this novel. Aaron works as an editor for his family publishing house which produces Beginner's Guides and 'vanity' titles. The office camaraderie and chitchat about the titles they publish is highly amusing.

You may have noticed some word links on my blog to very tacky ads. I didn't put them there - I've never wanted to monetise - and I think it is some kind of malware that I've reported to Blogger. Has anyone else had this problem?

Sunday 8 April 2012

Anne Tyler in Oxford

Chloe and Imogen at Christ Church

Just floated back down to earth after attending the literary event of the year - if not the decade - last Sunday. Anne Tyler's interview at the Sheldonian Theatre in beautiful Oxford.

The theatre was packed and the audience was quite jittery . Knowing that Tyler is notoriously reticent to be interviewed I think we were nervous on her behalf. In fact she was extremely composed and serene. The audience was apparently full of writers (although I didn't recognise anybody!) and she spoke a lot about the writing life, how she is happiest when writing, how she drafts and redrafts continuously and how she loves to be in the middle of writing a novel.

The audience were invited to ask questions and as a reader rather than a writer I was most interested in the question about what she likes to read. She said that she reads a lot of contemporary novels particularly first novels and that she came to Jane Austen late, reading Pride and Prejudice in her thirties when she was in bed with flu. She was warm and funny and throughout this week I've recalled different things she said. A podcast is available on The Sunday Times website but it is not free, unfortunately.

After the interview I bought a copy of the new book The Beginners Goodbye but the queue for signing stretched right around the theatre so I decided not to wait because I wanted to join my daughter Chloe and her friend Imogen to wander around Oxford, look at beautiful Christ Church college, browse Blackwell's enormous book store and visit the ice cream cafe in St Aldates. A very enjoyable day.