Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Yesterday I went to a talk by Marilynne Robinson... I was very star-struck. Or possibly star struck. Or even starstruck. Maybe all of the above. Just being in the same room as her was pretty crazy - this must be how teenage girls feel when they see the cast of Twilight, or how my brother would feel if Wolverhampton Wanderers football team popped around for tea. When Colin phoned me to talk about Wolves (they didn't get relegated, btw - I am only interested because this means he is happy, rather than glum; it will not surprise you to learn that I loathe football) I told him about seeing Marilynne Robinson, and he didn't know who she was. So I suppose it is rather a niche thing, but it still felt bizarre to be in the same room as one of the finest living writers. I even took a poor quality photograph on my mobile 'phone...
Truth be told, I didn't understand a word of her talk. It was called 'Where Are We? What Are We Doing Here? Night Thoughts of a Baffled Humanist' and seemed to be a state-of-the-nation talk, with huge doses of philosophy and politics. I know almost nothing about philosophy, and I care almost nothing about politics - so I was lost from the outset. But I was pretty prepared for that. I wish I'd been to hear her last time she was in Oxford, talking about her own writing, but at that point I'd not read anything by her. Even now I've only read Gilead, though Susan in TX and I have a plan to read Home together soon, don't we, Susan?
So, I'd readied myself to zone out when Robinson got onto topics I know zilch about, and instead I spent the hour being a bit overwhelmed by being in the same room as her. For the record, she is funny and personable - especially during the off-script moments - and I'm sure I'd love to hear her speak about writing or reading or Christianity; anything I can get on board with. But that didn't diminish an exacting afternoon for me.
Which leads me to the over-to-you bit - have you heard any authors speak, and which living writers would you love to see? I've seen a few others - all those at the Vintage day this month (Sebastian Faulks, Mark Haddon, Lionel Shriver, Rose Tremain etc.) but the only other notable one I can remember right now is Penelope Lively. And I still haven't read any of her books...
[EDIT: I forget Susan Hill! And doubtless many others. I was very excited to chat with Mary Cadogan once - the biographer of Richmal Crompton. But most fun has been meeting lesser-known, but brilliant and lovely, authors like Angela Young, Jenn Ashworth, Natasha Solomon, Ned Beauman....]