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Reading tips from authors at the Sydney Writers – Page 3

Lynette Ramsay Silver, Maryanne Confoy, Deirdre Bair, and more authors list their favorite books...

Lynette Ramsay Silver’s biography, Marcel Caux – A Life Unravelled, was about a man who pretended to be a French war hero from World War 1. Shortly after he died aged 105, he was exposed as a fraud.
It was the first time his family found out he was actually born in Marrickville in Sydney in 1899.
Ms Silver liked historical novels like those of James A. Michener which featured a great depth of research.
Ms Silver liked Michener’s The Source which uses an archeological dig at a tel, or mound, in the Middle East, with Michener basing his story on each historical era represented by archeological layers in the mound. Also she liked Nicholas Monsarrat’s The Master Mariner, and really good forensic thrillers like the early Patricia Cornwell novels.

Maryanne Confoy said that, like the subject of her biography Morris West: Literary Maverick, she was interested in what made people tick. Ms Confoy liked The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, (a book Sonia Shah, author of Crude, liked). Ms Confoy said Inga Clendinnen’s Tiger’s Eye: a memoir was wonderful. She also liked Jared Diamond’s book Collapse: How Societies choose to fail and succeed. Her favorite Morris West book was The Clowns of God.

There was one degree of separation between biographer Deirdre Bair and people like Samuel Beckett and Simone de Beauvoir, whom she had interviewed for biographies.
Ms Bair knew Simone de Beauvoir for the last six years of her life.

Deirdre Bair said she was the only person in the world to have read the complete diaries of Anais Nin. There were boxes of the diaries which Ms Bair read for her biography of Anais Nin.
Among the diaries and writing was Anais Nin’s Lie Box, which Anais Nin had used to remember the different lies she told to people on the east and west coasts of the U.S.A.. Anais Nin had one husband in L.A. and one in New York, and had different life stories to remember depending on which city she was in.
Ms Bair’s latest book is a biography of Jung. Her favorite books of all time included James Joyce’s Ulysses; Samuel Beckett’s Molloy; Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lauransdotteru; Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland; and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.

Mohamed Moulessehoul, who wrote under a pseudonym Yasmina Khadra, spoke through a translator at the SWF. His first books were thrillers set in Algeria. The author of Swallows of Kabul said he liked Albert Camus’ The Stranger; John Steinbeck’s East of Eden; William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice, and Nobel Prize-winner Naguib Mahfouz.

There were a number of translators of literature speaking, too. Chris Andrews liked A Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert; The Collected Poems of Elizabeth Bishop; and Fictions by Borges.

Another translator Tony Frazer liked War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy; The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope; and the Shakespearean sonnets.
Professor of Politics, and left-wing political commentator, Robert Manne launched his book Left, Right, Left at the SWF.

His favorite books included Primo Levi’s If This is a Man; George Orwell’s Collected Essays, Letters and Journalism, 4 vols; Fyodor Dostoevskii’s The Possessed; and George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda.

Stella Duffy said writers shouldn’t criticise chick-lit because that was what made publishers the money to publish other work by authors.
In her session on the short story, Ms Duffy said publishers and book stores were not that interested in short stories as they didn’t sell, and even established authors had trouble getting anthologies published.

As far as her favorite novels went, in Ms Duffy’s session she said she liked Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban, which she had bought about ten times only to give the copies away. She said she had read the book three or four times, and described the book as “Clockwork Orangey”.
She said Janet Frame was her “absolute hero”, citing Janet Frame’s first novel, Owls Do Cry. Also she liked Jeanette Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry, and The Passion; and Mary McCarthy’s The Group.

James Roy, author of Full Moon Racing, which is a book for younger readers, liked The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban; Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut; Farther Than Any Man by Martin Dugard, which was a narrative biography of James Cook; The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis; and Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
James Moloney author of The Book of Lies liked The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx; Atonement by Ian McEwan; Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda; and John Irving’s A Widow for One Year.

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