In the English education system, the last two years before university are spent intensively studying a small number of “set books.” Few people — even as slow a reader as I am — are likely to spend longer in the company of a book than an A-level student. The works I studied over those two years were Racine’s “Phèdre” and Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary” for French A-level. “The Portrait of a Lady,” by Henry James; Joyce’s “Ulysses”; poetry by Yeats and T. S. Eliot; and “King Lear” were my set books for English. James’s idea of a “center of consciousness” presiding over a scene, Flaubert’s slogan “le style est tout,” Joyce’s claim that “imagination is memory,” Racine’s austere adhesion to the classical unities and many other aspects of those works became part of the foundations of my sense of taste and, even if I wanted to question them, continued to influence me when I became a writer myself.Also: the daily routine of Hunter S. Thompson; the career of a human cannonball (FT site registration required).
Saturday, January 12, 2013
Edward St. Aubyn interviewed at the Times (via):