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WHAT BOOK would author Meg Rosoff take to a desert island? 

WHAT BOOK would author Meg Rosoff take to a desert island?

  • Meg Rosoff  has recently read Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror And The Light 
  • She would take James Thurber’s essay, The Dog That Bit People to a desert island
  • American author said Lord Of The Flies by William Golding left her cold 

. . . are you reading now?

I’ve had the most dreadful year of reading, like many other people I know.

What should have been the year of Ulysses, Proust and the lesser performed Shakespeare plays became, instead, weeks staring vacantly at CNN coverage of the U.S. election offset by 1930s Hollywood screwball comedies and a sneaky addiction to the This Dog Has Now Been Rehomed column on dogsblog.com.

So while I’ve continued to read (good habits are hard to break), very little has really engaged me this year. With two exceptions — Hilary Mantel’s glorious The Mirror And The Light, which I savoured over the course of a month, and my current read, Mantel Pieces, her essays on everything from John Osborne to the needlessly controversial Royal Bodies (which enraged David Cameron and Piers Morgan so much they no doubt briefly considered actually reading it).

Meg Rosoff (pictured) would take James Thurber’s essay, The Dog That Bit People to a desert island

Having seen just a handful of people over ten months, I only want to spend time with those I love. I’ve never met Hilary Mantel so I hope she’ll excuse the onesidedness of our relationship.

. . . would you take to a desert island?

Despite having spent more than half my life in Britain, I can’t escape (and Lord knows, I’ve tried) the fact I’m American. Which means that James Thurber shows up prominently in my DNA.

As a child, I begged for a dog and, eventually, was allowed an Airedale terrier, who lived up to every cliché by biting the postman, the milkman and any male visitor.

Which could explain why Thurber’s essay, The Dog That Bit People, reduces me to helpless laughter no matter how many times I read it.

Here’s how he describes Muggs the Airedale: ‘A big, burly, choleric dog, he always acted as if he thought I wasn’t one of the family. There was a slight advantage in being one of the family, for he didn’t bite the family as often as he bit strangers.’ So, I’ll pack a copy of Thurber’s Dogs for my year in the Maldives.

. . . first gave you the reading bug?

I can’t remember what I read last week, much less which book turned me into a reader half a century ago.

Meg revealed Catch-22 (pictured) gave her the reading bug

Meg revealed Catch-22 (pictured) gave her the reading bug

No doubt I was born a reader, but Catch-22, which I read at about age 15, caused an explosion in my brain. It was so funny and so dark, so weirdly constructed, ridiculous and profound.

This was probably the moment that I realised writing didn’t have to be restrained and polite. It was a free-for-all if you were clever enough.

. . . left you cold?

I’m a serious William Golding fan but Lord Of The Flies annoyed me at 14 and still maddens me today. All those power and war-hungry schoolboys! As if war were a social inevitability.

I was thrilled to discover that, in 1965, six boys were shipwrecked off Tonga, cooperated beautifully for 15 months and emerged friends.

The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff (Bloomsbury £12.99) was shortlisted for the 2020 Costa Children’s Book Award.

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