Have you ever wondered what music your favourite writer listens to or were curious about their guilty pleasure read? Wonder no more.
I posed a series of fun questions to the South African writing community and invited them to choose one to answer.
Their responses might surprise you.
Do you have a favorite comic book character?
My favourite comic book character is Dream Girl from the Legion of Super Heroes. She had possibly the lamest superpower ever – the ability to see the future in dreams. Very useful in battle, as you can imagine. Nevertheless, for a brief, halcyon period in the early 80s she was voted leader of the Legion. In those days the writers used to throw the vote open to the fans. The LSH member who polled the most votes from readers became leader for a year. This meant that I WAS NOT ALONE. Other people loved Dream Girl too. This was very, very exciting. Unfortunately the writers made a complete patriarchal pig’s ear out of the storylines that emerged from her leadership. Her boyfriend, Star Boy, resented the time it took away from their relationship. The big macho superheroes had a problem taking orders from a girl. Dream Girl was regarded as too beautiful to be taken seriously. So it was the best of times, it was the worst of times – simultaneously one of the most exciting things I remember from my childhood, but also one of the most disappointing. Stupid patriarchy!
What’s your guilty pleasure movie on rainy days?
Australia (director Baz Luhrmann) for one and only one reason: it’s over two-and-a-half hours of Hugh Jackman. Hey, even covered in sewage in Les Miserables, he was hot.
Do you collect anything quirky?
I collect stamps. I would say I have about 800 ordered and put in books and about 200 unsorted. My favourite stamps are from Hungary (Magyar Posta), the proud stamps of the Soviet Union often surrounding their space achievements. I also am quite fond of my Czechoslovakian stamps since the country no longer exists and the oversized colourful stamps from Cambodia often depicting temples and giant wild mushrooms.
Efemia Chela (Click the link to download Efemia’s story ‘Chicken’)
I collect spices and related ingredients. I have a pantry cupboard bursting with whole cardamon, tamarind, dried galangal and lime leaves, star anise, vanilla pods, jaggery and so on. I tell myself I need them for making curries (and I do cook with them), but I’d have to eat curry three times a day for the next twenty years to use all my supplies.
Favourite book to re-read?
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. I don’t get tired of Kazuo Ishiguro’s deadpan humour. Look at the guy’s face, does he look funny to you? Exactly! But he is hilarious.
“There was another life that I might have had, but I am having this one.” – Kazuo Ishiguro
What is your favorite TV show?
At the moment it is Haven. I am watching repeats of all the earlier seasons in anticipation of Season 5 which will probably be shown in South Africa early next year. Usually, I am more of a science-fiction than fantasy type, but I enjoy the stories and character dynamics – the friendships, loves, and hates – of Haven. I like the way the show portrays the attempt at trying to understand differences and finding common ground instead of passing judgement based on nothing else but ignorance. Haven also has a striking love story at its centre and I enjoy watching how it develops over the seasons.
Karina Magdalena Szczurek
We love a good TV series, though of course we have different tastes. Greg tends to fall asleep during Mad Men, Lisa is quiet and disapproving during Portlandia. But we both relished The Sopranos and its big man, Tony. He was lovable and detestable, and we admired the way the show toyed with our feelings. We also enjoyed Deadwood, the Shakespearian Western, though we had to watch it with subtitles.
Project Runway. I have seen every season at least twice. My husband used to loathe it, but the charms of Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn eventually won him over, and he can now predict the top three outfits on every show (he has Reality TV Stockholm Syndrome).
Favourite fictional detective?
Dr Siri Paiboun from the series by Colin Cotterill. Siri is the greatest (and only) coroner in 1970s Laos and also plays host to the spirit of a thousand-year-old shaman called Yeh Ming. I initially bought a book in this series as a birthday present for a friend, but started looking through it and ended up reading the whole thing and every other book by this author (who I got to meet and also got very drunk with in Thailand, but that’s another story). Had to buy my friend another copy!
What was your favorite band as a teenager?
*cough* They are still my favourite band. The Manic Street Preachers – started off as reactionary little gobby working-class Welsh boys in make-up and frilly blouses spray-painted with slogans, who married political sentiment with stadium rock. Evolved into bitter middle-aged men who are charming and wonderful and filled with self-loathing and seething outrage that the world didn’t turn out the way they wanted it to, and now make string-soaked lullabies about how much they hate Google and wish all their enemies would fail and die. Naturally I love everything about them.You could say we’ve grown up together.
I lived for Guns ‘n’ Roses. Somehow their right-wing politics eluded me. I do feel justified, though, because I read yesterday that Axl has he widest recorded vocal range of any pop/rock singer (wider than Mariah, which ought to be a song title in itself). I knew that my obsession had made an impact when my mother came home one day and told me, very proudly, that she had overheard two kids arguing about “Used to Love Her”, and informed them that it was about Axl’s dog. And then there was the night at a Grahamstown Festival when we were all set for the curtain to go up on a Not the Midnight Mass performance, and the lights went out. They lit some candles, and then this teenage boy got up from the audience and took a guitar. He sat down next to one of the candles and played “Patience”.
When I was in grade 8 my favourite band was Silverchair. My best friend and I had a competition to see who could collect the most magazine articles, posters etc about the band. Then in grade 9 a new girl came to the school. Suddenly she was loving Silverchair too. She joined the competition – her father was rich and she was able to order magazines, T-shirts and posters from overseas. Consequently, my best friend preferred her to me and we went our separate ways. I suddenly found Silverchair’s albums very mediocre indeed.
What band is always on your writing playlist?
I can’t write and listen to music at the same time, but I often enjoy music after writing sessions — they refill my non-verbal, impressionistic stores, and help me access the supra-verbal mood I’m trying to recreate, paradoxically and frustratingly, in words. For that reason I don’t often listen to the lyrics very carefully or parse them as language separate from the instruments’ sounds.
But the novel I’m currently working on is set in England and is a lot about lingering mood and water and psychological aberrance and as I’ve written I’ve listened to a lot of brilliant, sodden, deviant English music. Two lines of words stand out in the repeated listening: “He won’t speak to me / His crooked mouth is full of dead leaves” from Kate Bush’s “Misty” (50 Words for Snow, 2011), and “When I’m not with you, I dream of my hair falling out” from P.J. Harvey’s “It’s You” (Uh Huh Her, 2004). Both songs are about unusual love and capture the mood of my novel.
What has been your most embarrassing moment as a writer?
When on a panel with other writers make very sure you get the title of their book right if you are stupid enough to mention it when your memory has sieve like qualities. I recently launched my novel When The Bough Breaks a much trickier title than say, oh I don’t know, Never Let Go by Gareth Crocker whom I asked to interview me at my event. Now the thing is, I have actually read his novel and enjoyed it- but in my strange writer brain 3 words are randomly easily replaced with another three words of say, another book I read titled Live to Tell about the Ruwandan genocide! I sincerely and most confidently went on to mention that Gareth had penned Live to Tell and how I so enjoyed it on no less than three occasions during our discussion. The crowd didn’t flinch, neither, incidentally did Gareth who graciously greeted me the day after without mentioning my faux pas at all. I am still, however, cringing.
Casey B Dolan
If you could sit down with one writer, living or dead, who would it be?
I’d like to sit down with Francis, as in F Scott Fitzgerald. We’d have a laugh and go for a drive up a mountain somewhere in the South of France and then a swim and a lie on the beach. A European summer. Then we’d have lunch, possibly some drinks (things might get maudlin here) but we’d also talk about sentences, the structure of them; the editing and balance.
What is your signature dish that you whip up on special occasions?
Pancakes. I call myself the Pancake Queen and I have many friends that would vouch for me.
And if you had to make your signature dish for a famous writer?
If Borges, Agatha Christie, Haruki Murakami, David Mitchell and Shakespeare came to dinner, I’d serve up a Greek lamb stew with rosmario pasta followed by pear tart tartin, plus apple and almond cake and homemade custard and maple syrup ice-cream!
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a writer?
The biggest lesson I have learned from being a writer is that I am lucky to have control over my subconscious creative mind, rather than joining those condemned to the dark basement with the talking shadows.
Richard de Nooy
What’s the one possession you’ve had forever and just can’t throw away?
Well, not exactly forever but since 1977, which might be forever as far as many are concerned. It’s a model of a human skull that fits in the palm of my hand and has been on my desk for almost forty years. Greets me every morning with a grin. I bought it from a guy selling tourist curios at the bottom of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Favourite childhood read?
A Fly Went By, by Mike McClintock. It was the one book I insisted we take out the library every single week for a couple of years. Then I nagged my father to read it to me over and over again. When he refused, after the billionth reading, I roamed the pages myself for hours and hours. As an adult I worry that nobody in the area we lived in ever got to read it and enjoy it like I did, because I always had it out.
Carbonel, The King of the Cats by Barbara Sleigh. Long before Harry Potter taught the world’s youngsters about magic, there was a cat, a broomstick, a young girl doing cleaning for her overworked and broke mum in the school holidays and an olde English adventure that still haunts my imagination. It remains faded and inscribed in careful print as ‘Mandy Deller age 10′ on my bookshelf.
And as for me…
One Ripley’s Believe it or not fact about yourself?
I have a doppelganger, sort of. A few years ago a friend found this picture online of an aerial ballet showgirl. The picture was taken in 1949.
What do you think? Any resemblance?