Sunday, December 28, 2014

Andrew Hadfield

Andrew Hadfield is Professor of English at the University of Sussex. He is author of a number of works on early modern literature, including Edmund Spenser: A Life.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Hadfield's reply:
I like to make a clear distinction between books that I read for work – where I try to be as systematic as possible – and pleasure, where I read as wide and random a mixture as I can manage. I’ve been working on English perceptions of Rome and I found David Karmon’s The Ruin of the Eternal City: Antiquity and Preservation in Renaissance Rome (2011) a fascinating and extremely useful account of Renaissance Rome’s dilemma about what to do with its recent past. Charles Nicholl’s Traces Remain (2013) collects the writer’s essays and reviews over the last twenty-five years. Not only does it contain a lively and diverse range of reflections on how the past is preserved, from the last sad journey of the seventeenth-century travel writer, Thomas Coryat to a new candidate for Jack the Ripper, but it is elegantly written and full of reflections about what is always left behind.

I read mainly literature, history, and, sometimes, biographies. I’ve really enjoyed the sharp wit, poignant insights and precise style of Elizabeth Taylor (1912-75), who is finally getting her due as a disturbing and brilliant novelist alongside Muriel Spark and Barbara Pym. Blaming, her last book, which was published posthumously, is a magnificent, often hilarious work about bereavement, which alternately comforts and shocks the reader. I’m looking forward to reading many more of her novels.

I quite enjoyed Helen Macdonald’s H Is For Hawk (2014), an account of one woman’s determined battle to rear a goshawk, Mabel. I read it because I have a long-standing interest in T. H. White, whose own account of his attempts to train a hawk, The Goshawk (1951), serves to anchor Helen Macdonald’s own experiences. McDonald’s book is fascinating and moving at times as she struggles to subdue the iron will of the bird of prey, overcome her grief after the premature death of her beloved father, and forge her own style. She is least successful in the last of these aims and the book is sometimes marred by poor writing.
Learn more about Edmund Spenser: A Life at the Oxford University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Edmund Spenser: A Life.

--Marshal Zeringue