Friday, December 7, 2007

Diane Purkiss

Diane Purkiss is the coauthor of the Corydon trilogy, written with her son Michael under the penname Tobias Druitt.

Purkiss's own latest book is The English Civil War: Papists, Gentlewomen, Soldiers, and Witchfinders in the Birth of Modern Britain.

She is now working on a history of food and eating.

Not long ago, I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I always have several books going at once - one lives in my bag so I'm never caught without something to read, and I dig it out in any queues, delays, missed appointments, on public transport.... In my bag now, I have Nell Stroud's autobiographical Josser, about life in a circus; it's much funnier and more touching than Angela Carter, but I'm reading it for the purposes of working on my fifth novel with my son; one of the characters is a trapeze artist.

I also have at least one novel going at any given time, and right now it's Les Miserables, which I'm rereading joyfully and tearfully - one of my favourite books ever (but I hate the musical) and I also have Proust's The Captive, part of In Search of Lost Time. They both make wonderful reading for the historian in me because they are both about time and the individual. And Proust is fabulous for thinking fastidiously about food, my current research topic.

Also by my bed I have Elizabeth Wein's remarkable The Sunbird, allegedly a children's book but actually brilliant at any age; it's about plague and trade, and it's the boldest mythic rethinking I know.

And finally, I always have a volume of poetry, and it's Edward Thomas, whose poems about the English countryside are a constant inspiration for all my writing, fiction and nonfiction.
Diane Purkiss is a Fellow and Tutor at Keble College, Oxford.

Her books include the highly acclaimed The Witch in History and At the Bottom of the Garden. She holds a B.A. from the University of Queensland, and a Ph.D. from Merton College, Oxford. She lives in Oxford, England.

--Marshal Zeringue