‘I recognise a lot of myself in the behaviours he describes.’
By Graeme Macrae Burnet
Published by Saraband
The book as . . . memory. What is your first memory of books and reading?
I think it’s of a picture book, Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Wildlife or something like. On one page was a full colour photograph of the wide open mouth of a snake. This terrified me and I remember throwing the book across the room. But I kept sneaking back to take another peek.
The book as . . . your work. Tell us about your latest book Case Study. What did you want to explore in writing this book?
Well, the only things I set out to explore when I’m writing a novel are the characters and the milieu. In the case of Case Study the central character is a rather unworldly young woman who believes that a radical psychotherapist named Collins Braithwaite has driven her sister to suicide, so she presents herself as a client to Braithwaite under an assumed identity. Collins Braithwaite is a charismatic, somewhat monstrous figure, who inhabits the London counter-cultural scene of 1960s London.
The book as . . . inspiration. What is your favourite book that has informed how you see yourself?
In preparation for writing Case Study, I re-read R.D. Laing’s The Divided Self. It’s a book that I find tremendously insightful, in particular in relation to the way we present different personas (or false selves as he would have it) to the world. I recognise a lot of myself in the behaviours he describes.
The book as . . . object. What is your favourite beautiful book?
I’m very fond of my hardback edition of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. I love the simplicity and poetry of her almost childlike black and white drawings. It’s definitely the book I’ve most often given as a gift.
The book as . . . rebellion. What is your favourite book that felt like it revealed a secret truth to you?
John Newsinger’s The Blood Never Dried, which describes a number of unsavoury episodes in Britain’s colonial past. It was published in 2006, but in an era of increasing jingoism and nostalgia it feels like a very necessary book.
The book as . . . a destination. What is your favourite book set in a place unknown to you?
St Petersburg drips from its every page of Crime and Punishment. I’ve never been there, but I feel that I’ve walked the every street that Raskolnikov walks, crammed myself into his tiny attic room and got sozzled in its grotty bars.
The book as . . . technology. What has been your favourite reading experience off the page?
I think reading Sorley MacLean’s poem Hallaig* on the plaque near the eponymous cleared village on Raasay is a pretty moving experience.
* in Seamus Heaney’s translation
The book as . . . the future. What are you looking forward to reading next?
A couple of things. I have a proof copy of Catherine Simpson’s new book One Body. I loved her memoir When I Had a Little Sister. She has the ability to write about the saddest things while always retaining a sense of humour. Also a book I picked up solely on the basis of its brilliant title: The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures by Jennifer Hoffman.
Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet is published by Saraband, priced £14.99.
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