Thursday, August 14, 2014

Michelle Lovric

Michelle Lovric writes darkly unusual historical fiction for both children and adults. Most of her books are set in Venice, where she lives. Her novel The Remedy was long-listed for the Orange Prize and The Book of Human Skin was a TV Book Club Summer Read in the U.K. Her latest is The True & Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters, the grubby and magnificent tale of seven siblings with forty feet of hair between them. She also blogs on Venetian life, writing and research.

A couple of weeks ago I asked the author about what she was reading. Lovric's reply:
These days, much of what I read is suggested by my father, Vladimir. I’ve inherited both his voracious reading habit and his taste for dark humour and ornate turns of phrase. He’s always right about what I would like. He’s in Australia, and I live in Venice and London, but we talk books every week. The conversation is free, thanks to Skype, but the calls end up expensive as they always involve me in book-shopping afterwards.

My father is a paediatric haematologist, so he’s also brilliant at helping me with the clinical details in my novels.

Recently, he’s put me on to Andrei Makine’s Human Love and Simon Rich’s The Last Girlfriend on Earth.

I also recommend books for my father. Lately, I’ve been urging him to read Colum McCann’s TransAtlantic and Let the Great World Spin. And Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things.

It’s not just my father. I’m as suggestible as Othello. I’m always asking people what they are reading. So I also talk books, passionately, with my literary agent, Victoria Hobbs at A.M. Heath. At her suggestion, I just read Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation. Predictably, I loved it. Edward St Aubyn is another mutual favourite. Victoria and I gossip about characters in novels as people we actually know. We both fell hard for Boris and Hobie in Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch.

Most of my friends are writers. So I’m sometimes privileged to read manuscripts in draft form, especially from fellow members of The History Girls, a cooperative blog site where each of us publishes a piece on our researches and adventures one day a month. The latest History Girls’ publication is Louisa Young’s beautiful The Heroes' Welcome, a sequel to her deservedly acclaimed My Dear I Wanted to Tell You. It is just as sensitive, unusual and touching as the first book.

Non-fiction takes up much of my reading time, as I am always researching something or other, usually to do with grim medical history or Venetian studies. Most recently I loved Alessandro Marzo Magno’s Bound in Venice about the history of the printing industry, the subject of my own novel, The Floating Book.

Historical fiction writers like myself also find ourselves immersed in esoteric titles like Arthur L. Stinchcombe’s Sugar Island Slavery in the Age of Enlightenment. As my books are set in a city of canals, my characters often fall into the water – or are pushed – and need to strip down to their smalls. So I keep The History of Underclothes by C. Willett and Phillis Cunnington on my desk.

Currently, I’m interested in the Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I’m writing a protagonist with this very damaging syndrome. NPDs lack empathy and do not recognise the emotional carnage strewn in their wake, a characteristic that can make their cruelty stranger than fiction. They constantly move on, restless and hungry for new consumables – human or material – to fill the lacuna inside. It seems that this syndrome is unfortunately on the rise, encouraged by the self-centredness and sense of entitlement of the selfie generations. But there is historical precedent as well.

More cheerfully, I read a lot of poetry. I attend poetry classes to sharpen my writing instruments, and to spend time intensely sacred to the written word with others who share my obsession with it. The latest poetry book I bought is Hilda Sheehan’s The Night My Sister Went to Hollywood. With some trepidation, I’m about to join a select London poetry group of which Hilda is a member. I have read quite a lot of her work now, and it sparkles like sun on the water.
Visit Michelle Lovric's website.

--Marshal Zeringue