1 ECOUMBERTO ECO interview up on Publishers Weekly. I have never laughed so much during an interview. He told jokes as we waited for the elevator, he let me touch his incunabula….I think I am in love. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/profiles/article/68465-the-parasitic-press-umberto-eco.html

 

2 ParksNice quotes from my TIM PARKS interview that I was unable to fit into my piece for Publishers Weekly: “Obviously I was aware of people like [Patricia] Highsmith. I admire her a lot but I always thought that the [Ripley] books could have been much funnier. You could see that she just didn’t do humor. And Italy always seems to invite humor. Either humor or desperation because you can go crazy in this country quite easily, particularly if you have to get something done.”

“Crime and Punishment was another book that I think could have been so much funnier. You feel you are morally superior to these people so why not.”

 

3THE POWER OF BOOKS: I was chatting with Antonio Cesari from Brigaldara (www.brigaldara.it) about fictional characters who inspire people to put them into a real context. Romeo and Juliet, Sherlock Holmes and…Mary Poppins. Antonio told me that when his brother went to London for the first time he walked around every single park in the city looking for Cherry Tree Lane, the location of the Banks’ residence.

A few days later, I happened to pick up The Collected Essays of Graham Greene. Here is a quote: “Perhaps it is only in childhood that books have any deep influence on our lives. In later life we admire, we are entertained, we may modify some views we already hold, but we are more likely to find in books merely a confirmation of what is in our minds already: as in a love affair it is our own features that we see reflected flatteringly back. But in childhood all books are books of divination, telling us about the future, and like the fortune-teller who sees a long journey in the cards or death by water they influence the future. I suppose that is why books excited us so much.”

 

4I have been asked to review books for Publishers Weekly. The editor asked me give him an idea about what I liked to read. This is what I wrote:

 

I read mysteries for publishers when I was in New York…and for Book of the Month club I read things that didn’t fit into easy categories (a book on Masai warriors) and artist’s biographies (I had studied art history at university) and, of course, mysteries.

 

However, a wander through the books on my shelves reveals that my favorite novelists are Nabokov (the first chapter of Lolita is pure poetry), John Updike, William Boyd (except for his James Bond pastiche), Louis de Bernieres (although sometimes the narrative in his books becomes untethered and floats away), Peter DeVries (he makes me laugh out loud). Of course most of these authors are dead. But they have styles I enjoy reading….they play with words and still deliver emotional punch. I will also confess to reading Allison Lurie and Anne Tyler, although they are not displayed on my shelves. They are secret “girly” reading.

I like showbiz biographies, I studied enology, viticulture and wine tasting and have written about wine for closing in on 30 years….so I can assess wine books.

 

I don’t like those big fat Japanese books – nor do I like those slim, slight Japanese books, where everyone is just soooo sensitive. I don’t like books that pump up their page count by hammering in slabs of Googled “history” and “science”. I am beginning to find the Mystery writers who pump out one big fat book after another, tiresome. I am sure they are nice people but I want to shake them and say firmly: Stop repeating the same story, do something else!

On my bedside table at the moment: Michael Caine’s Autobiography The Elephant to Hollywood, Le Carre’s The Tailor of Panama, Elmore Leonard’s Djibouti and The Name of the Rose. I will read anything if it is nicely written.