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 Pip Desmond ahead of the launch of her latest novel Song For Rosaleen.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING AND HOW DID YOU DISCOVER THE BOOK(S)?
Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward. It was lent to me by the best sort of friend, one who offers to share her books.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WRITERS AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THEM?
My favourite writers always shed light on the human condition in a way that’s both surprising and familiar. As well as those I’ve mentioned below, I’ll read anything by Hillary Mantel, Kent Haruf, Dave Eggers, Ann Patchett and many others.
WHAT BOOKS ARE ON YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE?
I always have a pile of books beside my bed. Right now they include:
- Why We Write About Ourselves: twenty memoirists on why they expose themselves (and others) in the name of literature, an anthology edited by Meredith Maran on a subject dear to my heart;
- Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie;
- When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, a perennial source of wisdom from American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron;
- Wedlock, a new book of young adult fiction by my friend, Denis Wright.
- First Bite: How We Learn to Eat by Bee Wilson, a Christmas present from my husband Pat.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK-TO-FILM ADAPTATION?
I usually avoid film adaptations of books because they clash with the pictures in my head. Two classic movies – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Godfather – made me seek out the terrific books on which they’re based.
WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU RE-READ THE MOST AND WHY?
There are too many good books out there to re-read most. One exception is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. The emotion is so spare, the post-apocalypse landscape so devastating, the love between father and son so unbearably tender. I’m in awe.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY CHARACTER?
Growing up, I wanted to be Eloise, Kay Thompson’s sassy six-year-old heroine in the book of the same name. She lives on the top floor of the Plaza Hotel in New York, says ‘Charge it, please’ when she orders room service, and does exactly what she wants.
WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN MEANING TO READ BUT STILL HAVEN’T GOTTEN AROUND TO?
Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment
WHICH THREE WRITERS WOULD YOU HAVE OVER FOR DINNER?
Janet Malcolm, Helen Garner and Vivian Gornick, for their fearless, intelligent, provocative voices over decades. I’d sit them at my kitchen table and eavesdrop on their conversation while I busied myself at the stove. Joan Didion would be there too if I was allowed four guests.
WHAT WOULD YOU COOK THEM?
Something hearty like lamb shanks.
HOW ARE YOUR BOOKS SHELVED AND ORGANISED AT HOME?
In rows if they’re lucky, or piled up on side tables.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY QUOTE?
Anne Lamott: ‘We have to let the monster out. When we do, we don’t end up with a brand on our forehead, we compare notes.’
Pip Desmond’s Song for Rosaleen is available now in store
and from unitybooksonline.
To view an archive of previous interviews, follow this link.