Sunday, July 10, 2016

Jane Rogers

Jane Rogers has published eight novels, written original television and radio drama, and adapted work for radio and TV. Her last book, The Testament of Jessie Lamb, was the 2012 winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction; it was also longlisted for the Booker Prize. She has won the Somerset Maugham Award, the Writers’ Guild Best Fiction Book, has been a finalist for the Guardian Fiction Prize, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She is Professor of Writing at Sheffield Hallam University, and she lives in Banbury, England.

Rogers's new novel is Conrad & Eleanor.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m usually reading several books at the same time, for various reasons; often my reading has to do with other writers I am meeting, or with research. The research might be towards a novel, though at the moment two of the books I’m reading are for research towards a radio drama and a piece of online journalism. Then there are the books I read because they’re recommended by people I trust, or because of brilliant reviews, or simply because I want to. Finally, I seem to spend a lot of my life on trains, and size is a factor in the book I chose to take with me. I hate the fashion for huge books that don’t fit easily in my backpack or handbag. So, here are four that I have on the go at the moment:

Robert Louis Stevenson, In the South Seas (research), which contains his letters and essays about his travels in the South Seas in the last years of his life. Stevenson is one of the best writers ever, it amazes me that he is not more highly regarded by English-speaking readers. The French revere him! I’m working on radio adaptations of two of his South Sea novellas, so it is interesting to read his factual accounts of his travels and to learn how much of what really happened he put into the novellas.

Anne Tyler, A Spool of Blue Thread (research). I’m writing a piece for the Guardian Online about the top 10 books on the subject of ‘Long Marriages’, so I am rereading a couple to check how good they are. Tyler often writes about marriage, and always writes true. The opening ten pages of this novel (almost entirely dialogue) reveal Abby and Red Whitshank brilliantly. They are arguing helplessly over how to handle a phone call from their son Denny announcing he is gay. Abby theorizes that his getting a girl into trouble while he was still at school might have been a symptom of homosexuality. Red asks, “Come again?” “We can never know with absolute certainty what another person’s sex life is like.” “No, thank God,” Red said. Their love for one another is as comfortable and worn as the old slippers and colourless dressing gown each wears.

Paul M.M. Cooper, River of Ink (meeting the writer). I’ll be sharing a talk on writing historical novels with Paul, next week. His novel is set in thirteenth century Sri Lanka, about which I know nothing, and it is vividly written.

Conor O’Callgahan, Nothing on Earth (for pleasure, by a friend, and small enough to go in a handbag!). Begins with real mystery and is written in precise yet poetic language. Hard to put down.
Visit Jane Rogers's website.

The Page 69 Test: Conrad & Eleanor.

--Marshal Zeringue