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Getting 2 Know Diana Fitzgerald Bryden

Diana Fitzgerald Bryden author photoWhat is the best book you’ve read lately and why?

I’m going to cheat and name two. First, The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark. It’s funny, dramatic and tragic. Terrible things happen to Spark’s characters, without a hint of pathos. Yet somehow, without expressing any sympathy for the victims herself, she engages not just her readers’ sympathy but our understanding of the cruelties and kindnesses we inflict on each other. I read an article recently which talked about her novels as being poetic, and I think that’s true – formally they’re brilliant: concise yet expansive, they leap back and forth in time, break all the rules about what you can know and when, circle and repeat in a way that’s sometimes hypnotic but never heavy-handed. And the way she’ll suddenly pierce you with a crystalline image or throwaway line. She makes me jealous!

The other book, because I love it so much, is Jane Gardam’s Old Filth. I could read that book over and over. And now that I think about it there’s an affinity between Gardam and Spark – not so much in tone or subject, but in the way they play with structure, inserting bits of dialogue as if they were scenes in a play, starting in the middle or end, circling back to the beginning. Old Filth is the story of Sir Edward Feathers, a Raj orphan who becomes a renowned barrister, and one of the things I love most is how you see the startled child in the adult man and feel the fluidity of the past. Equally disciplined, Gardam is a warmer writer than Spark. She also makes me jealous!

What is your favourite thing about writing

I can do it in bed.

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