Literary Panel 2003

Every December, looking ahead to the holidays, Eleanor Wachtel speaks with four writers about the books they read as children, the books that changed their lives, and their favourite books for the year.

Panel participants/most recent books:

Peter Carey's latest novel My Life as a Fake is published by Random House.
Jennifer Johnston's This Is Not a Novel is published by McArthur & Company.
Ali Smith's latest book is The Whole Story and Other Stories, published in paperback by Hamish Hamilton.
Barbara Trapido's Frankie and Stankie is published by Bloomsbury.

Books they grew up with:
Jennifer Johnston talked about having grown up with Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, the works of Robert Louis Stevenson, Cornelius, Rabbit of Tange by Mary Flynn and Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Ali Smith read her older brother and sisters' books. At a young age she was reading The Dubliners and Ulysses by James Joyce, and 1984 by George Orwell.

Barbara Trapido read the works of Enid Blyton, and the Flower Fairy series by Cicely Mary Barker, as well as the works of Beatrix Potter.

Peter Carey read the Sergeant Bigglesworth series by W.E. Johns and The William books by Richmal Crompton, which he described as being like P.G. Wodehouse for kids. His favorite book as a child was The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay. He read from this book for the panel.

Books they read as young adults:

Ali Smith talked about having read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. She also talked about a trilogy written in the 1930s called A Scots Quair by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. She read from the first book of the trilogy called Sunset Song.

Peter Carey said he read very little fiction as a young adult. The books he did read that had an impact on him were the works of Joyce and Beckett. The most powerful influence was As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.

Jennifer Johnston was influenced by her actress mother, so read and loved the plays of Shakespeare as a young adult.

Barbara Trapido was influenced by Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.

Reading lately:

Jennifer Johnston said of Colum McCann's Dancer: "...a fabulous book, wonderful work of imagination, very clever."

Barbara Trapido said the last book that had excited her was Edmund White's Fanny: A Fiction. She also said that she had very much enjoyed Heligoland by Sheena Mackay.

Peter Carey said about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, "...really beautifully, bravely done...a perfect little book which can be read a twelve year-old...by practically anybody."

Ali Smith talked about a reprint of a 1975 book by Tove Jansson called The Summer Book. She said it was a "tough little book about mortality. Beautifully pitched." She also praised the work of British author Nicola Barker, and said of her novel Behindlings: "...a very risk-taking novel." She also recommended Nicola Barker's short stories, The Three Button Trick and said that they were "little masterpieces - you will never forget the stories." Finally, she talked about What I Saw by Joseph Roth and translated by Michael Hofmann, "...journalism of such quality, you can't get it out of your head."

Comments are closed.