The Reader is a marvellous idea for a book, and it is great to be able to see what has inspired Smith to pursue her own literary career. There is a whole scope of different literature and non-fiction here, some of which is new to me, and some of which is dear to my heart. I loved the fact that Smith and I have so many favourites in common (Jansson, Plath, Mansfield, Anne Frank – all swoonworthy authors), and I feel that I have some real gems in store for me with Smith’s recommendations as my starting point.
Smith states in her introduction that she has decided not to write a personal comment alongside each inclusion. I felt whilst reading that this was a real shame, as for me, it undermines the entire goal of creating a personal reading anthology. Still, the pieces which she had chosen, for reasons unknown, were marvellous.
My favourites (both old and new):
‘Northanger Abbey’ by Jane Austen; ‘Lady Sings the Blues’ by Billie Holiday; ‘Witch’ by George Mackay Brown; ‘We Shall Not Escape Hell’ by Marina Tsvetaeva; ‘Meadowsweet’ by Kathleen Jamie; ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ by Zora Neale Hurston; ‘Wise Children’ by Angela Carter; ‘Housekeeping’ by Marilynne Robinson; ‘Everything is Nice’ by Jane Bowles; ‘Orlando’ by Virginia Woolf; ‘On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer’ by John Keats; ‘On the Ward with TV, iPod and Telephone’ by Kasia Boddy; ‘To Anybody At All’ by Margaret Tait; ‘Wants’ by Grace Paley; ‘On Angels’ by Czeslaw Milosz; ‘Ars Poetica?’ by Czeslaw Milosz; ‘The Cinema and The Classics’ by H.D.; ‘Mae West’ by Colette; ‘Colette’ by Lee Miller; ‘Bloodshed and Three Novellas’ by Cynthia Ozick; ‘A Writer’s Diary’ by Virginia Woolf; ‘The Journal of Katherine Mansfield’; ‘Unseen Translation’ by Kate Atkinson; ‘Adlestrop’ by Edward Thomas; ‘The Song of Wandering Aengus’ by W.B. Yeats; ‘Passengers with Heavy Loads’ by Joseph Roth; ‘The Falling City’ by Lavinia Greenlaw; ‘Kansas to New York’ by Louise Brooks; ‘Remedy’ by A.M. Homes; ‘The Darkling Thrush’ by Thomas Hardy; ‘Hymn to Iris’ by Alice Oswald; ‘Art in Nature’ by Tove Jansson; ‘Black Rook in Rainy Weather’ by Sylvia Plath; ‘The 24-Hour Dog’ by Jeanette Winterson; ‘The Living Mountain’ by Nan Shepherd; ‘Independence’ by Helen Oyeyemi; ‘The House I Live In’ by Maggie O’Farrell (absolutely stunning); the extract from Anne Frank’s diary; ‘From Berlin’ by Armando; ‘Cymbeline’ by William Shakespeare; and ‘Ninth Elegy’ by Rainer Maria Rilke.