Saturday, November 17, 2012


The Rebus author picks his top reads for a desert island, including Robert Louis Stephenson and Jilly Cooper...
The one book that I would flag up from my teenage years would be A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. The film had been banned, but nobody stopped you getting the book out of a library or from a bookshop. So to me, books were forbidden fruit. The Godfather, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest…this was the adult world that I wasn't supposed to be allowed into.
A Clockwork Orange was also about violence, and that – when I was becoming a teenager in the early 1970s – meant Doc Marten boots, bovver boys, skinheads, football hooliganism. It pinpointed the world that existed around me in a literary way.


We talk to the Dylan Thomas Prize-winner about Seating Arrangements
Weddings and family drama often go hand in hand, and in Seating Arrangements the van Meter clan are on fine destructive form. The novel follows the fortunes of the “Gatsby-esque” family, and their equally well-established guests, as their privileged lives slowly start to implode in the days leading up to the nuptials. Born and raised on the other side of the country, Shipstead explains that she hadn’t really “encountered the Eastern establishment until I went to Harvard University, where I met people who came from families like the van Meters. Being in California until I was 18, I hadn’t really given class any thought."

The novelist's great-grandmother lived and died in a Victorian asylum
When I was a child, whenever my mother’s patience was pushed to its limits sometimes she would shout at me: "You will send me to Burghill!" Whatever could this Burghill be to hold such a sense of threat? Well, apparently, it was a village where the local county asylum was built, and within that asylum’s walls my maternal great-grandmother died. Only recently did my mother confess the awful truth of our family’s past. Before that my knowledge of Burghill was a memory from my teenage years, when I accompanied my stepfather on a visit to one of his relatives who suffered from schizophrenia.

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