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Behind-The-Books Blog

Destined for literary greatness…

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Later on this year we are reissuing Absolute Beginners, one of Colin MacInnes’s cult classic London Novels. Reading his biography, which mentions his mother Angela Thirkell I got to thinking about how small writing circles must have been. Thirkell, herself a writer, was a first cousin to Rudyard Kipling and her godfather was JM Barrie. One assumes that moving in such circles must have prompted and inspired Thirkell, and later Colin, to pursue careers in writing.

More recently, on the weekend it was with great sadness that I read Dianna Wynne Jones’ obituary.  (And it is a week of loss for literature – as our own wonderful author HRF Keating passed away on Sunday – read more in News)

Jones too had a close association with many literary figures. But in her case, it seems that despite this contact she chose to pursue her love of writing. When a young child she was told off by Arthur Ransome for making too much noise, and her younger sister had her face slapped by Beatrix Potter. Later in her life, while at Oxford, she studied under CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, both of whom, according to the Guardian, were ‘tolerated’ at the university (thus assuming they weren’t the most inspiring of lecturers).

Still, no doubt moving in these literary circles must have influenced Jones to a great extent and by all accounts she made a far more charming professional than those early children’s authors she came into contact with.

What do blog readers think? Are you related to/been inspired by/had your face slapped by any great (or not so well-known) authors, prompting you to put pen to paper in an effort to emulate – or better them? Let us know.

Lara Crisp, Managing Editor


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    Lesley: on books for the long weekend. Please can someone schedule decent sunshine to read in too?

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    The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton
    Sophie: Yes, regular readers of the blog might remember that this one cropped up before, I'm still making my way through. At nearly 800 pages I think I’ll still be reading it at Christmas. But it’s so good I don’t think I care.

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