Brought to book: Bonnie Greer on Hemingway, Borges and Anne Frank

‘Critics, especially legacy critics, are important for sales, prizes, maybe longevity. But they don’t tell you about writing or if you can do it. It’s business’

 Bonnie Greer:  could imagine writing a historical novel set around the Viking slave markets of Dublin. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Bonnie Greer: could imagine writing a historical novel set around the Viking slave markets of Dublin. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Fri, Jul 4, 2014, 13:32

Bonnie Greer: A Parallel Life, the first volume of memoirs by the award-winning Chicago-born playwright and critic, was published last week by Arcadia Books, priced £14.99

What was the first book to make an impression on you?

The complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

What was your favourite book as a child?

Never read children’s books.

And what is your favourite book or books now?

Hemingway, Borges, Nella Larson, Joyce, Baldwin, Stefan Zweig, Jacqueline Susann.

What is your favourite quotation?

“The world is in perpetual motion, and we must invent the things of tomorrow. One must go before others, be determined and exacting, and let your intelligence direct your life. Act with audacity.” – Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot (Veuve Clicquot)

Who is your favourite fictional character?

Robin Hood.

Who is the most under-rated Irish author?

The one the Establishment doesn’t like.

Which do you prefer – ebooks or the traditional print version?

All the same to me.

What is the most beautiful book you own?

A many-thumbed edition of Hemingway’s The Essential Hemingway.

Where and how do you write?

All the time. Scraps of paper. Computer. Longhand on pads.

What book changed the way you think about fiction?

Borges’s The Garden Of Forking Paths.

What is the most research you have done for a book?

My own memoir.

What book influenced you the most?

Hemingway’s Fiesta (The Sun Also Rises)

What book would you give to a friend’s child on their 18th birthday?

The Diary Of Anne Frank – all the different editions bound in one volume. So that they can see how afraid people are of youth when it speaks its truth.

What book do you wish you had read when you were young?

The Godfather.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Write.

What weight do you give reviews?

Critics, especially legacy critics, are important for sales, prizes, maybe longevity. But you have to see them like that. They don’t tell you about writing or if you can do it. It’s business.

Where do you see the publishing industry going?

Moving along until it can find a way of marrying the psychological reality online (how people are reading now) with print.

What writing trends have struck you lately?

Self-publishing. Fan fiction. Good thing all around.

What lessons have you learned about life from reading?

It comes to an end.

What has being a writer taught you?

Nothing.

Which writers, living or dead, would you invite to your dream dinner party?

I don’t like dinner parties. Always avoid them. But I would meet up at a nice restaurant with: Joyce; Hemingway; Emily Dickinson; Maya Angelou; James Baldwin; Cervantes; Shakespeare; Stefan Zweig. Was going to say Virginia Woolf, but think she’d be a drag.

What is the funniest scene you’ve read?

Dominique Francon, the “heroine” of Ayn Rand’s crypto-fascist novel, The Fountainhead, explaining, as she whips every man in sight, what she wants: “Freedom. To want nothing, to expect nothing, to depend on nothing.”

What is your favourite word?

Doxa

If you were to write a historical novel, which event or figure would be your subject?

5th Century. Northeast England around Hadrian’s Wall. And the Viking slave markets of Dublin.

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