As I mentioned in my previous post yesterday evening myself and another writer friend trudged along to King's College London to hear a talk with Hilary Mantel and Fay Weldon, chaired by Robert McCrum. At first glance it is one of those subjects that can be easily dismissed into two boxes - one marked fiction/untrue and the other marked autobiography/true, or at least 'subjective', which means it can be true to the author, even if not those who were actually present in the story, each of us having a slightly different perspective. However, as Fay and Hilary (or Mantel and Weldon, whichever you prefer) made clear, using their own works to illustrate, the lines of division between the genres are not lines, more like a free-floating cloud of division. In short, there is more of the self betrayed in fiction than can often be the case in 'controlled' truth of autobiography. 'The act of autobiography is fraught with peril', Hilary said, not least because one is …
This evening I shall be listening to Fay Weldon and Hilary Mantel discuss 'autobiography and fiction', chaired by The Guardian's very own Robert McCrum. (I shall have to restrain myself from booing at the Kindle champion!) The discussion is part of King's College London's 'Dissecting the Self' series, more info here.
A little pre-end of year post whilst I try and gear up to a longer round up of the year - and maybe even the decade! But every lit section is already proclaiming their best books of the year/decade: The New York Times Book Review has listed its top ten books of 2009 here Earlier in the year Spread the Word had its Top 10 Books to talk about here, another here and, from The Guardian, the decade's best unread books . One of my own favourites of the past year had to be Colm Toibin's Brooklyn. I would also choose Francis Wheen's Strange Days Indeed as the non-fiction choice. I doubt also that I'll be getting through current reading matter, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Joan of Arc before the year's out!
A longer post soon. I'm currently reading Eleanor of Aquitaine by Ralph Turner and Joan of Arc, Virgin Warrior. I also recommend this month's double issue of Literary Review, most notably for the review on the new Cheever biog by Blake Bailey. Bailey wrote the brilliantly perceptive and thorough biography of Cheever contemporary Richard Yates a few years back. There's also a couple of notably scathing reviews, one by Richard Gray on Tdorov's championing of the Enlightment, in which Gray uses the analogy of a child and childish things a little too far which only has a circular effect of making Gray seem a tad childish. The other one is by Douglas Murray on a recent book on the Danish cartoons - yes, those cartoons, in which his main gripe with her seems to be that she has tried to remain impartial! So, there you have it.