She says that the author she liked most was Molly Keane, who was "an absolute darling. And I suppose of all the men, the nicest was - is - John Updike." One of the less attractive characters was VS Naipaul; when Athill needed cheering up, "I used to tell myself: 'At least I'm not married to Vidia.'"
One of the authors whose writing style she most admired was Jean Rhys. "Jean used to simply say that she was trying to get it like it had really been. To get it right," she says. This is the hallmark of her own work. She uses metaphor rarely and perfectly, suggesting, for instance, that scarlet lipstick can make older women look "like a vampire bat disturbed in mid-dinner". "Jean used to say, 'Cut, cut, cut, cut,' and she was right," Athill says. "Accurate writing means accurate thinking."
Monday, January 05, 2009
"A cupboard full of Vaseline"
At the Guardian, Kira Cochrane interviews editor and memoirist Diana Athill: