‘The truth is that structure deserves to be broken and readers are delighted and refreshed when it happens.’
By Denise Mina
Published by Harvill Secker
The book as . . . memory. What is your first memory of books and reading?
Chicken Licken from the East Kilbride Library when I was five. We moved away and never took it back and I felt so guilty about it that I had a bit of a horror of libraries after that. Recently I was in one and they’ve done away with fines and admonishments.
It was a very good book. My mum read it to me because I was a very late reader. Spoiler: Chicken Licken was a conspiracy theorist.
The book as . . . your work. Tell us about your latest book Confidence. What did you want to explore in writing this book?
Firstly I wanted to write a book for everyone who feels like running away, I wrote it during lockdown and the urge to get the fuck out of here was very strong so I wrote an escapist book, literally. I also wanted to explore the fractured way we all receive stories now, the experience of watching a series while scrolling news and playing a narrative game. I love the texture of that, the overlap and bleed and how stories meld into one another.
The book as . . . inspiration. What is your favourite book that has informed how you see yourself?
Heart of A Dog by Bulgakov. It’s about a dog being given the pituitary gland and testese of a man and becoming a half man dog. He remembers a lot of words he’s heard, mostly swearing. He gets a job as a cat strangler and the doctor who made him tries to turn him back into a dog. I loved it because Bulgakov couldn’t get published while he was alive in Stalinist Russia but he kept writing and telling his truth. It was nothing to do with the reception. His writing feels very internal and very true.
The book as . . . an object. What is your favourite beautiful book?
I’m a pig for an atlas but good ones are hard to find these days. I have a catalogue for a show I saw at the Royal Academy in the 1980s ‘German Art in the 20th Century’ and the images are tremendous. As an actual object, my father in law used to buy me folio society books and got me box set of Graham Greene crime novels which I love.
The book as . . . a relationship. What is your favourite book that bonded you to someone else?
My best friend from school gave me One Hundred Years of Solitude to read and although we drifted away from each other over the decades, I don’t think we’ll ever lose touch because of that book. It showed me a depth to her character I coudn’t have guessed at while we were fighting about boys.
The book as . . . rebellion. What is your favourite book that felt like it revealed a secret truth to you?
Jane Gardham’s Old Filth. The truth is that structure deserves to be broken and readers are delighted and refreshed when it happens. Every so often she just breaks out of descriptive proses and writes a script for a TV show. I think I had forgotten I could do that and how thrilling it is to read.
The book as . . . a destination. What is your favourite book set in a place unknown to you?
All historical fiction does that, but I especially love Zola. His Germinal series took me to a place I didn’t know, a time I wasn’t familiar with and is so alien it can be read as sci-fi.
The book as . . . the future. What are you looking forward to reading next?
Finishing Mel Brooke’s All About Me but I don’t want it to end.
Confidence by Denise Mina is published by Harvill Secker, priced £14.99.
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