Saturday, June 7, 2008

Favourite authors

I’ve been tagged to answer the following questions by Catherine Hawley

1. Who’s your all-time favourite author, and why?

Probably Wilkie Collins. He was a friend of Dickens’, & was as interested in social reform as his friend was, just in different areas. He was particularly concerned about the status of women (mind you, he did maintain what the Victorians called an irregular household). His thrilling or exciting stories are neither thrilling nor exciting to modern readers, but all his books* and stories are well-written, I enjoy his use of language, and the depictions of the society of the day.

*I exclude Ioláni; or, Tahiti as it was. A Romance’, which was his first novel & never published in his lifetime (indeed, it was only published in 1999) because it wasn’t very good. I’ve tried reading it more than once, telling myself perhaps I’ll get on with it better each time, but only ever get so far.

2. Who was your first favourite author, and why? Do you still consider him or her among your favourites?

First one I can remember (and almost certainly was the first as I used to like Noddy) was Enid Blyton. I progressed through her books up to the Famous Five, and then moved on to Malcolm Saville. My children have all read Blyton & enjoyed her, and in fact I have reread many of them as I have read them to my children (I have read the entire Five Find Outers (and Dog) series out loud to my youngest daughter and it became an awful chore). The lack of more than about three different plots make them hard going, especially when read together. My two youngest children have taken to Malcolm Saville’s Lone Pine stories, they belong the the Malcolm Saville Society, and I have taken them to Rye & to Shropshire to visit some of the settings. Their enthusiasm has led me to reread the books and I must say they stand up very well; he has been criticized for his poor characterization, but I thought the children were quite well drawn (his villains are somewhat of the cardboard cut-out variety though).

As a teenager, I read all Michael Moorcock’s prolific fantasy outpourings of the late 60s & early 70s, and I still enjoy his writing – although mainly his non-fantasy stuff now, Mother London, the Pyat quartet, although I have just read The Metatemporal Detective (which is a sequence of short stories) and enjoyed it very much. My first favourite adult author would have been, I think, Mervyn Peake.

3. Who’s the most recent addition to your list of favourite authors, and why?

It’s a while since I’ve been able to add an author to my list of favourites – partly because I’ve not been impressed enough with the writing, partly because the majority of what I read is non-fiction. Long before the film was around I read and very much enjoyed The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez, and was very disappointed to find that at the time it was the only one of his books that had been translated into English. My eldest daughter, in all seriousness, suggested I learned Spanish in order to read the others.

4. If someone asked you who your favourite authors were right now, which authors would first pop out of your mouth? Are there any you’d add on a moment of further reflection?

Wilkie Collins, Robertson Davies, Iain Banks, Mervyn Peake, Michael Moorcock, Gladys Mitchell, Margery Allingham, Dorothy L Sayers, John Buchan, John Dickson Carr/Carter Dickson, Freeman Wills Crofts, Kazuo Ishiguro, Beverley Nichols, Eden Philpotts, Emile Zola, Bill Bryson, Michael Innes, C H B Kitchin, Nikolaus Pevsner, R Austin Freeman, Iain Sinclair [the further down the list they get the more reflection was required]

And so I tag

Jane Badger and

Vanessa Robertson

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