Friday, October 6, 2017

The books that made me / Anne Enright / ‘I threw The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann into the Liffey in 1983’

Anne Enright

The books that made me

Anne Enright: ‘I threw The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann into the Liffey in 1983’

The Booker prize-winning author on the poem that made her cry and why Norman Mailer is ‘a bad joke’

Anne Enright
Friday 6 October 2017

The book I am currently reading
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera. I am on a retro jag.
The book that changed my life
I wish something would change my life, actually. I am not sure why, because I have a lovely life and it changes all the time. I dream about this book. You open it and – my goodness – a terrible beauty is born.
The book I wish I’d written
In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje.

Anne Enright at home in Bray, near Dublin. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe for the Guardian

The book that had the greatest influence on my writing
The naked I: Fictions for the Seventies was a paperback anthology my sister Mary brought into the house in the early 1980s, full of short fiction that was, for someone reared on Irish naturalism, mind blowing. Sylvia Plath’s “Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams” (just the title was enough), Robert Coover, John Cheever, and an indelible story about bees by John Barth called “Ambrose, His Mark”. I came across it recently in a secondhand bookshop and just as soon lost it again.
The book I think is most overrated
I found The Sword of Honour trilogy by Evelyn Waugh totally underwhelming. Never got Balzac. Norman Mailer is a bad joke.
The last book that made me cry
The death of Lily Bart in Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth was hard to take. Fiction doesn’t make me cry the way that poetry does, because poetry does not care if you believe it or not. Just last week, I read “The Rope” by Sinéad Morrissey and wept freely. Damn.
The book I couldn’t finish
I threw The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann into the Liffey in 1983. This was a shameful act of littering. I have never confessed it before, but I feel a bit better now that I have.
The book I’m most ashamed not to have read
Always when I meet another writer and have to hum and haw, this makes me deeply ashamed.
The book I most often give as a gift
I used to like giving the collected poems of Patrick Kavanagh, but a nice edition can be hard to find.
The book I’d most like to be remembered for
My next one. It’s going to change my life. Also my afterlife, which needs a bit of changing. I don’t know why.


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