Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Kate Atkinson

I went last night to Diesel and heard Kate Atkinson read from her new novel, One Good Turn. Atkinson is the author of what is probably my favorite novel of all time, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, which I picked randomly off the shelf of the Benicia Library just before I graduated from high school. It's one of those books where I knew from the first line ("I exist!") that we were meant to be 2getha 4eva, and it's still true--I love Atkinson's quirky, British prose; I love her characters, who are lovable but to whom you know only bad things can come; I love that she drops a trail of bread crumbs toward a surprise ending, and I never even noticed the first time around.

I can't actually say that she's one of my favorite writers, or at least not consistently so. Her prose is always faultless, but most of her books from the late 90s are just varying degrees of strange. I almost broke up with her over Emotionally Weird, which might as well just be called "Weird," and which doesn't have enough other winning qualities to make it even remotely recommendable. She's wormed her way back into my heart lately, though, with a collection of short stories (Not the End of the World) and her last novel, Case Histories, which seems to be her best-known book so far. We have a tumultuous relationship, Kate and I.

She was lovely last night, though. There is practically nothing that is more inspiring to me than hearing writers talk about writing, and she was properly writer-ish: charming, self-deprecating, and willing to admit to total disorganization. She made it sound so easy, like she just sits down every morning and the story tells itself. She said she never plans her novels out before she writes them, which is anathema to my obsessive little heart, but wouldn't it be nice? And I'm sure there's more to it than that--I'm thinking here of whatever pain and suffering her editors go through--but she did sort of make me wonder whether I'm not on the wrong end of the author/editor relationship. Something to think about. In the mean time, I think I might go back and re-read Case Histories.

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