On tour: Joanna Walsh
British writer Joanna Walsh has been published in Granta, the London Review of Books, and the Guardian. Her latest book Hotel (Bloomsbury) is a cultural study of hotels that is part memoir and part meditation. She is attending Adelaide Writer’s Week in February.
What would you put on a shelf-talker for your latest book?
Writing puff pieces for your own books is the sort of out-of-body experience that can be particularly disorienting, so I’m going to give you some other people’s instead.
Melissa Harrison in the Financial Times reviewed Hotel: ‘Hotel is a boldly intellectual work that repays careful reading… in its deft delineation of a complex modern phenomenon—and, perhaps, a modern malaise—it’s a great success.’
Left Bank Books said, of Vertigo: ‘Fans of Clarice Lispector, Lydia Davis, and experimental fiction of all stripes, you need to check out Joanna Walsh. The stories in Vertigo are linked by speaker and can be read like a novel, but each stands alone as an example of just how many boundaries the short form can push in a few pages. Walsh handles the seismic events of life with a sort of alien bluntness and mania for category that forces her language into bizarre, thrilling new shapes. A mind-blowing must-read.’
What are you reading right now?
Breton’s Nadja (Penguin), again.
What are you planning to read next?
The Swan Whisperer (Sylph Editions) by this year’s International Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author, Marlene van Niekerk, which promises a smart playful riff on language, translation and the swans of the canals of Amsterdam. It’s a beautiful edition from Sylph’s ‘Cahier’ series with drawings by William Kentridge.
Which book do you always recommend?
Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick (Profile Books)—I’ve just written on the first publication of this genre-busting feminist classic for the Guardian; and the stories of the surrealist artist Leonora Carrington, which I’d dearly like to see back in print.
What was the defining book of your childhood?
Maybe Babar the Elephant (Jean de Brunhoff, Egmont ) not so much for its enormous, creamy pages with their seductively simple text and illustrations, as because it was an encounter with all kinds of thoughts that were foreign to me: an introduction to one of the most exciting things books can do, which is to be strange.
If you were a literary character you’d be …
Well my Guardian Comment-is-free name (I don’t use it much but, as I write for the paper, I find I have to have one) is Virginia Fur, who is a character from one of Leonora Carrington’s stories. She’s a fairly terrifying wild-woman living alone in a desert that resembles Carrington’s pre WWII home in the South of France. But I think she’s a lot more like Carrington than me. Perhaps Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web (E B White, Penguin), who is so quiet and practical and plain-spoken, and who kills and eviscerates bugs for a living.
What’s your favourite book adaptation (film, television or theatre)?
I prefer books.
What’s your favourite books website or blog?
I like the Paris Review interviews: I usually avoid general ‘writing tips’ because I’m terrified I might take any notice of them, but I am seduced by these authors’ personal explorations of their own practice.
Hardback, paperback or digital?
Paperbacks, and the occasional pdf: no Kindle. I like books that I can annotate, fold the corners down, occasionally destroy…
Facebook or Twitter?
In 50 years’ time books will be …
Slightly yellowed; hopefully not floating.