There’s something voyeuristically thrilling about knowing what other people’s reading habits are. The Reader is a brief interview inspired by the Proust Questionnaire, which was itself inspired by a 19th century party game. We ask readers, writers, publishers and book-lovers everywhere (including our own staff) to answer eleven questions about the books they love, what they have been reading and their literary habits.
Emma Martin was the winner of the 2012 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Her book of short stories Two Girls in a Boat was published by VUP in May 2013. She lives in Wellington.
What are you currently reading and how did you discover the book?
Cat’s Eye, by Margaret Atwood. I read it when it was first published in the late 80s and loved it. Reading it again, I have the gratifying sense of meeting my earlier self and finding that we share the same taste. It’s a terrific book. Visceral and disturbing.
Who are your favourite writers and what do you love about them?
I freeze when I’m asked these kinds of questions. I sort of forget everything I’ve ever read except for possibly the last two or three books. I’m much better at answering the question: which books have you read recently and enjoyed? So here are a couple: The Forrests by Emily Perkins, for capturing the finitude of life, as well as its jouissance. The Secret River, by Kate Grenville, for telling a story I already knew, but making me confront it in a way I never had.
What books are on your bedside table?
Cat’s Eye, NW by Zadie Smith, A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani, Radioactive – A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace, Nanny Piggins and the Accidental Blast-off by R A Spratt.
What is your favourite book to film adaptation?
What book have you re-read the most and why?
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. I read it a lot as a teenager: it was respectably literary but also oddly soothing. It always came out the same way. Eliza always ended up marrying Mr Darcy.
Who is your favourite literary character?
Hansel and Gretel. They’re not really characters in the sense of modern literature – they’re archetypes. But I find I often like books with characters that echo them.
What book have you always been meaning to read but still haven’t got around to?
Several of the books on my bedside table; see earlier reply.
Which three writers would you have over for supper?
Because Cat’s Eye is on my mind at the moment, I’d go for Margaret Atwood, although I’d be a bit scared of her. Also Mary Wollstonecraft. And my mother, who is not a writer, but who I think would be interested in meeting the other two.
What would you cook them?
This would be tricky as Mary W would be used to 18th century food (a google search returns jugged hare, boiled rabbit, calf’s head). I’m vegetarian.
How are your books shelved and organised at home?
Squeezed in where-ever there’s a gap.
What is your favourite literary quote?
‘All children have to be deceived if they are to grow up without trauma.’ – Kazuo Ishiguro
We launched Emma’s book here in May and you can see a review of the night with photos here.