Pulp.net - Maggie Gee

The Online Home of New Fiction

November 2008
My Literary Top 10
Maggie Gee

Top 10
Best short story I re-read recently:
Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Gardener’. Everything happens under the surface, but it is heart-breaking, finally, and you have to read it again at once as comprehension dawns. A perfect use of the form.
Book I finished reading but wanted my time back afterwards
I never regret finishing a book. I only regret the ones I left half-finished. At least if you complete the experience, you can judge it properly.
What I would blush to be seen reading on the tube
Why would I blush about anything I read? I’ve earned the right to read whatever I like. Maybe I should be embarrassed to be seen reading the National Enquirer, but I’m not, and I do.
Best ‘film of the book’ I've seen
Howard’s End. Rich, sympathetic, eccentric book; patiently moving, beautifully acted film. And the film of Girl with a Pearl earring is even better than Tracy Chevalier’s very good book.
Best recent novel in verse
Bernardine Evaristo’s dancing, witty The Emperor’s Babe, set in Roman London but written in a wonderfully readable, fluent mixture of 21st century slang and tags of Latin.
Most embarrassing author photo
I am going to tell you about the author photo on my first novel, Dying in Other Words. I was horribly poor, working weekends as a hotel receptionist off Baker Street, and the publishers asked me for a jacket photo. I went with all my diamanté on (which was a lot) to the photo booth at Euston, and sent the stoned-looking, starry result to my publisher. I told them it was by the society photographer, ‘U.Stone-Booth’, and that is how it appears on the jacket.
Most famous author I’ve met who acted like a prat
Jack Higgins (The Eagle Has Landed) name-dropped endlessly on a panel I saw him on 20 years ago. BUT the other writers on the panel were more ‘literary’ than him, and they were not being very nice to him, so in retrospect I think he was probably doing it out of insecurity. The literary world is a snobbish and snide one (viz this question.) Popular authors probably comfort themselves by saying ‘People read us, not those miserable buggers.’
My favourite bookshop
It’s a tie between all my locals: the Willesden Bookshop (next to the Library), the Kilburn Bookshop (opposite Kilburn High Road BR) — both have cheery, informative staff who are passionate about books — and the excellent, brand new Queen’s Park Books, Salusbury Road, where my beloved daughter works on Saturdays.
Author I’d like to see win more awards: Me
Though festivals, journalists etc often refer to me as ‘award-winning’, and I rarely contradict them, I have never actually won one, and I wouldn’t want there to be an oversight…
Author I’d like to see beaten with a stick, then never again
The question is funny, but to answer it isn’t.
Maggie Gee has written nine novels including The Burning Book, Light Years, Lost Children, The Ice People, The White Family (Saqi, 2002, short-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction) and most recently The Flood (Saqi). She is the first woman Chair of the Royal Society of Literature and lives in London with her husband Nick Rankin and daughter Rosa.