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'I remember thinking I should probably read something, just as in a bar you should probably drink something. I wanted to be a scientist when I grew up, but that day I needed something stronger. I was so desperate I found myself in the poetry section. '
'As pilgrims we were captivated by the landscape as it changed around us, concerned with basic facts of where we would eat and sleep, and charged with the encounters and conversations that shaped each day. I had no desire for a fictional world.'
'To my parents’ credit (or detriment), they never censored anything. I loved Lois Duncan, who wrote about murderers, serial killers, witches. I loved Chuck Palahniuk’s earliest novels: Fight Club, Survivor, Invisible Monsters. I loved American Psycho. '
'I often invite creative writing students to write an observation during class exercises. Why do I ask them to do it? Hadn’t I, at the age of fourteen, sworn off dutiful recording? What happened, between then and now?... I read Anna Karenina.'
'I remember the thrill of excitement that went through me. Here was my favourite TV programme in book form! It was like a dream come true. I wanted both books, but opted for the non-Dalek one because it had a multi-tentacled creature on the cover. '
'I felt swept away by Ondaatje’s prose, as if by water — and yet so often I would need to climb ashore or set the book down in order to spend time with an expression or a character’s reply because these words were too beautiful to be hurried through.'
'He slapped a silver-cover version of J. D. Salinger’s novel down in front of each one of us. ‘Read it,’ he said, ‘all lesson, for homework, and the next lesson and homework, until you’ve finished it.’ Thirty-five minutes later, the change in me had begun.'
'Freya Stark travelled widely in Luristan, Palestine, Lebanon, Iran, Syria and Iraq, and was the first Western woman to journey through that part of the Arabian peninsula which is now Yemen. But a hundred years ago? She showed me how it was done.'
'The first Iris Murdoch novel I ever read, aged about fourteen, was The Flight from the Enchanter. It was like a magnesium flame in the darkness. The bohemian, rackety world she depicted enraptured me; still more, her writing.'
'James Baldwin's books weren't just about being black or gay. They were about being human, and what has to be understood, reconciled, challenged, acquired and achieved in order for a person to retain their humanity.'
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