One Minute With: Simon Schama
Friday 30 July 2010
Where are you now and what can you see?
I'm sitting on the back deck of my house in the Hudson Valley, looking into the vegetable garden – and looking out for the woodchuck. The wildlife here, 25 miles from New York City, is amazing: woodpeckers, red-tailed hawks. There was a dead garter snake on the path this morning.
Whar are you currently reading?
'Near to the Wild Heart', the first novel by [Brazilian writer] Clarice Lispector. It's an astonishing debut – a modernist-stream-of- consciousness that sounds like hell but is actually brilliant.
Choose a favourite author and say why you like him/her
Italo Svevo. I return to 'Confessions of Zeno' every few years. It's poignant, clumsy, elegant, funny - and the greatest novel ever written about failing to give up smoking.
Describe the room where you usually write
In the summer, I write outside on this wooden deck. If the sunlight gets too fierce or if we have the titanic thunderstorms we get here, I retreat to the kitchen, and an old scrubbed-pine table.
What distracts you from writing?
Music. Because I can listen to any music, from Bach to The Ramones. And tinkly background music is the worst.
Which fictional character most resembles you?
It has to be [AA Milne's] Tigger.
What are your readers like when you meet them?
It's one of the most wonderful gifts: they are so generous... And they're often shyly confessional – saying perhaps that 'The Power of Art' helped them feel better when they were ill.
Who is your hero/ heropine from outside literature?
[Philosopher and theologian] Martin Buber. Because for him the core of being Jewish is an understanding of other people. "I-Thou": to put yourself in someone else's shoes.
Simon Schama's 'Scribble, Scribble, Scribble' is published by Bodley Head.
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