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Shelf Life: Anne Enright

25 July 2012

11:47 AM

25 July 2012

11:47 AM

Winner of the 2007 Man Booker Prize, Anne Enright is on this week’s Shelf Life. She tells us which book qualifies as the first satisfying satire on the Irish boom, gives us a long list of the parties in literature she would like to have attended and reveals which is the only book by Norman Mailer that wouldn’t make her run for the hills.

Her latest novel is The Forgotten Waltz and she will be appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Sunday 19th August at 18:30. www.edbookfest.co.uk

1) What are you reading at the moment?

Graham Greene, would you believe: A Burnt Out Case. Also A.M. Homes May We Be Forgiven, in proof, which promises to be wonderful. I have just finished Claire Kilroy’s The Devil I Know, which is the first satisfying piece of satire about the Irish boom (and greed in general).

2) As a child, what did you read under the covers?

Everything. I am the youngest of five: my siblings all read, my mother went to the library every week. I read everything that came into the house from Nabokov to Enid Blyton. They nearly overlapped. Not quite.

3) Has a book ever made you cry, and if so which one?

I cry very easily, but rarely at fiction. One exception is the short story The Dead by James Joyce.

4) You are about to be put into solitary confinement for a year and allowed to take three books. What would you choose?


The King James Bible, Proust, the book I am currently writing. (Sorry).

5) Which literary character would you most like to sleep with?

I am attracted to goodness: Angel Clare nearly killed me when he left Tess, and I was fourteen.

6) If you could write a self-help book, what would you call it?

Giving Yourself a Break: an end to self-blame.

7) Michael Gove has asked you to rewrite the GCSE English Literature syllabus. Which book, which play, and which poem would you make compulsory reading?

I don’t like exams.

8) Which party from literature would you most like to have attended?

I do like a good party. The one in Lampedusa’s The Leopard is probably the one I like best, but who could miss Mrs Ramsay’s dinner in To The Lighthouse (much better than Mrs Dalloway’s bash. The Christmas Dinner in A Portrait of the Artist is a key moment for me, as is the wonderful party in The Dead. I also like the trees midnight feast in, I think, Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis, where the trees eat loam and silver sand.

9) What would you title your memoirs?

Who Knew?

10) Which literary character do you dream of playing?

The one I am writing, usually.

11) What book would you give to a lover?

A boyfriend gave me John Donne’s collected poems when I was sixteen – that was pretty much spot on. These days, it’s all The Beauty of the Husband by Anne Carson.

12) Spying Mein Kampf or Dan Brown on someone’s bookshelf can spell havoc for a friendship. What’s your literary deal breaker?

Norman Mailer. With the exception of The Executioner’s Song.


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