Thursday, February 21, 2013

Paula Brackston

Paula Brackston is the author of a travel book, The Dragon's Trail and the novels The Witch's Daughter and The Winter Witch. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University in the UK, and her autobiographical writing has been published in several anthologies.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Brackston's reply:
I’ve been thinking about the expectations I have of books, and how I take different things from different types of novels. I don’t anticipate that I will get everything I desire from one book. It does happen, but rarely.

Some books I read for the colour and intensity of the story – perhaps a sweeping setting (The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penny) or a dramatic plot (The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell). With these I want to experience something and somewhere way outside myself, beyond my own experience (either past or likely future).

Some books I read for the power of the characters, whether good (Merivel by Rose Tremain), or bad (As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann). Now I want to go somewhere deep inside myself. I don’t want to merely empathise with these characters, while I’m reading the story I want to become them.

Some books I read for tone and mood; for the way they move and stimulate me. Paul Torday and Sue Townsend to make me laugh, for instance, Sebastian Faulks to make me cry, George RR Martin to fire my imagination. All will keep me reading way after silly o’clock at night.

Then there are the books where language reigns. The books where you come across a sentence so exquisitely formed, an idea so succinctly expressed, a sentiment so ably shown, you have to read and re-read it. And each time the thrill remains undiminished. These are the phrases I wish I had coined. The sentences I wish I had written. And yet I can overcome my envy, because the pleasure I get from such writing is mine to keep.

As I said, it is rare to find all these qualities in one book, but it does happen. And when it does, well, how gifted the writer and how fortunate the reader. I offer you two examples of this rare bird.

The first is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I worry about the upcoming film. Will the language be there? Can it be? I urge you to read the book before you watch the movie.

The second is A Room With A View by EM Forster. Can there be a more perfect depiction of the absurdity of society, the allure of ‘abroad’, and the complex nature of the human psyche? My favourite ever lines are:

“Miss Barlett was unequal to the bath. All her barbed civilities came forth wrong end first.”

Read in context, it is sublime.
Visit Paula Brackston's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue