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.
We spoke to author Keith Westwater ahead of the launch of his memoir, No One Home: A Boyhood Memoir in Letters and Poems.
Keith has received or been shortlisted for awards in New Zealand, Australia, and Ireland. Commended several times in the New Zealand Poetry Society’s international competition, his debut collection Tongues of Ash won Interactive Publications’ best first book award in 2011. Keith was a longstanding member of the Tuesday Poem community and poems in progress are posted on his blog, Some Place Else www.keithwestwater.com
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING AND HOW DID YOU DISCOVER THE BOOK(S)?
Tom Scott’s ‘Drawn Out’ – a Christmas present from my daughter and her family.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WRITERS AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THEM?
Poets – Browning’s soliloquies – still the ‘best in class’ internal dialogue poems; Auden – his subject matter and technical competence; Billy Collins – accessibility, quirkiness, and humour; NZers – Adcock, Baxter, Glover, Dallas, Tuwhare for their portrayal of who and where we are and what is important to us.
Science Fiction – Iain M. Banks for his prodigious imagination wrought in the ‘Culture’ series.
Fiction – Maurice Gee for the Plumb trilogy’s kiwi generational portrait; Pat Barker for the Regeneration trilogy and its marriage of World War One history and the lives of some of the war poets; Kate Atkinson for her Jackson Brodie novels with their humour, plot twists and believable characters.
Comic writing – Spike Milligan, especially for ‘Puckoon’ (enough said).
WHAT BOOKS ARE ON YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE?
Neil Gaiman – ‘Trigger Warning’; ‘Murdoch: The cartoons of Sharon Murdoch’; Peter Wohlleben – ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’; numerous ‘Rattles’ (a North American poetry magazine); and half a dozen collections by NZ poets.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK-TO-FILM ADAPTATION?
Paddington Bear 1 and 2 ( I have 5 grandsons) with ‘A Few Good Men’ starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and Demi Moore close behind (although I never saw or read the play).
WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU RE-READ THE MOST AND WHY?
‘The Great Modern Poets: An anthology of the best modern poets and poetry since 1900’, Michael Schmidt (Ed), Quercus – I re-read this for inspiration and ideas and in admiration of the poets.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY CHARACTER?
Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie.
WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN MEANING TO READ BUT STILL HAVEN’T GOTTEN AROUND TO?
Iain M. Banks’ last Culture series book ‘The Hydrogen Sonata’.
WHICH THREE WRITERS WOULD YOU HAVE OVER FOR DINNER?
Hone Tuwhare, Kate Atkinson, and Iain Banks.
WHAT WOULD YOU COOK THEM?
Seafood kai accompanied by and/or marinated in whiskey, beer, or wine.
HOW ARE YOUR BOOKS SHELVED AND ORGANISED AT HOME?
In my writing room – a bookcase of poetry by individual poets or anthologies, ‘how to write’ books, dictionaries, thesauri, Te Reo and place name books, and books of quotations; a bookcase of NZ and non-NZ literary fiction, science-fiction, and non-fiction works, memoir, plays, the odd textbook; and a bookcase of books on gardening, wine, design, and organisational management.
In the lounge – a bookcase with an assortment of ‘coffee table’ books, English and French literature, and other works (including my own) organised by colour of spine or cover and arranged in tasteful blocks (courtesy of my wife Margret).
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY QUOTE?
Now, since Trump:
‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned’