One friend recently asked me to name the best five books I've ever read; I told him mine, he told me his, and we've been working our way slowly through each other's lists. That's a plan of a kind and it's been a revelation.
Now I didn't need him to read to me anymore, that our sitting down side by side, and his joy in reading to me, was ended; guilt then, infests my reading habits from their beginning.
The precision of Wodehouse, the economy of Fitzgerald and the wild comic invention of Flann O'Brien; these then are the elements that inspire me.
When advances dwindle and rejections become legion - each more hurtful than the last - I remember McCullers, Proust, Balzac and the many others who fought the good fight.
I am particularly inspired by writers who approach their work ever so slightly sideways. Just a step, not the whole mile. Writers who are playful.
Mavis Cheek continues her conversation with James McConnachie, discussing how her writing life has charted enormous changes in women’s lives and regretting the dearth of humour in ‘serious’ contemporary fiction.