Between Two Books

Inspired by the song Between Two Lungs, four young fans decided to begin a book club called Between Two Books on twitter. Soon after they even had a recommendation from Florence herself, recommending Gwendoline Riley’s Opposed Positions. 

Some of the books they have read so far are…
‘Opposed Positions’ by Gwendoline Riley
‘The Ice Age’ by Kirsten Reed
‘Why Not Say What Happened?’ by Ivana Lowell (guest recommendation from Emma Forrest)
‘Your Voice In My Head’ by Emma Forrest
‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ by Nora Zeale Hurston
‘Songs About Dragons Flying To Heaven and Other Plays’ by Young Jean Lees (guest recommendation from Jeremy O’Harris)
‘A Confederacy Of Dunces’ by John Kennedy Toole
‘The Great Gastby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
‘The Marriage Plot’ by Jeffrey Eugenides
‘The Day Of The Triffids’ by John Wyndham (guest recommendation from Isabella Summers)
‘The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt
‘Not That Kind of Girl’ by Lena Dunham
‘Heartburn’ by Nora Ephron
‘I Will Never Be Beautiful Enough To Make Us Beautiful Together’ by Mira Gonzalez
‘Birthday Letters’ by Ted Hughes

This list has now given me a bunch of new books to add to my ever-growing pile.

On behalf of the book club, Florence interviewed Donna Tartt, the author of my favourite book The Secret History.

Dear Donna,
Here are a few questions from the kids at the @betweentwobooks book club, and a few questions from me, sorry if they are a bit rambling\miss-spelled I don’t have much practice in journalism.

Flo: The male characters in your books are so convincing in their ‘maleness’ (or at least as far as I can gather from a female perspective)

Donna: I’m glad if they’re convincing – I think that any novelist, if he or she is any good, needs to be able to write from the point of view of the opposite sex (and also from the points of view of people who are much older or younger, and from all kinds of different backgrounds)

Flo: Do you feel more comfortable writing for male characters?

Honestly, I don’t think about my characters in terms of gender – it’s more about what’s best for the story I’m writing, and these were the characters who were right for ‘Goldfinch.’ But that said: the speaking voice of Theo, my narrator, is not a million miles from my own.

Flo: I often feel there is a conflict between the masculine and feminine sides of myself during performing and songwriting

Donna: A conflict? Or an interesting balance? I think to be a good performer (or good writer, or good artist of any kind, actually) you need a kind of synthesis between dreaminess and fantasy on the one hand, and straightforward hard work. The very best artists, in any field, are both warm and cold, sensitive and powerful, cerebral and emotional. Sometimes people speak of those polarities in terms of masculine-feminine, which is part of the picture, sure—-but it’s actually much complicated than that, I think. At any rate: I think there’s no question that a good artist has to be able to work in a whole lot of different ranges.

Flo: Do you think of yourself as a tomboy perhaps?

Donna: In some ways, yes… a tomboy without the team sports, I’d say. When I was a child I was sort of a daredevil – a tree-climber and roof-climber – and I loved animals, and I loved to draw, and more than anything I loved to read. Certainly I didn’t like to play with dolls -but on the other hand, I would do almost anything to get out of games and athletics at school. I think most artists have an element of androgyny in their characters, which is perhaps part of what makes them artists in the first place.

Flo: You dress wonderfully. Are you interested in clothes?

Donna: Yes, very interested in clothes. Always have been.

Flo: Do you like presenting an idea of yourself to others by what you wear? Or do you think its superficial?

Donna: It’s not so much about presenting an idea – it’s more that I wear what I like and somehow it all fits together. I’ve always had very strong ideas about my clothes – when I was little, my favorite shoes were red patent leather; I wore as many lockets and charm bracelets as I was allowed to and/or could get away with; but as far as actual clothes went, I strongly rejected anything girly or frilly and always went either for boys’ clothes or for what I thought of as “orphan dresses” – that is to say, plainly cut dresses in the darkest, drabbest colors I could find, like gray and dark brown. When I was about five or six I remember begging my grandmother, who was an excellent seamstress, to make me a black dress – “Certainly not!”
At any rate, I think my love of clothes has at least partly to do with my love of detail. Lots of writers have been clothes-horses and dandies – Proust, Oscar Wilde, Baudelaire, Colette all come to mind…even Emily Dickinson in her white muslin dresses or Ivy Compton-Burnet with her diamond brooches and severe Victorian black. Poring through racks of vintage clothes or obsessing over just the right shade of sky-blue or violet satin for the lining of a black jacket stems from exactly the same impulse that makes me tinker happily with a sentence all afternoon, changing adjectives and moving clauses around until it’s just right. Then too: I so enjoy looking at *other people’s clothes* that it seems only proper to take a little care with my own. As Isabella Blow so famously said: “My style icon is anyone who makes a bloody effort.”

Flo: Do you have those antique roses that smell of raspberries that Henry grows in the Secret History? Or did you research and try and find weird unusual ones to suit him.

Donna: I *did* have that Reine des Violettes rose, growing in a pot, but sadly it died during a cold winter a couple of winters ago—I’ll have to buy myself a new one. It’s a beautiful, decadent old rose, a deep purplish-fuschia color with petals that tend to curl and go black at the edges as it fades. Whenever I’m anywhere near a botanical garden during rose season, I’ll always go and smell the rarities, as so many antique roses have undertones of other scents—lemon, oranges, honey, myrrh. Anyway: I grow a lot of old roses myself now, but when I wrote that part of the Secret History, I was living in a tiny New York apartment and longing for a garden, and I gave Henry a rose that I wanted myself.

Flo: I was incredibly moved by the passage at the end of “The Goldfinch” about how we are inherintly ourselves, for better or worse, unable to change who we are, or who we love. Do you feel that writing helps you to define how you feel about the world? Love? Relationships? And somehow understand yourself\them better?

Donna: Absolutely.

Flo: Are the characters revelations your revelations too?

Donna: Sometimes! I find that a book is never very good if you’ve figured the whole thing out in advance. Robert Frost also said, in addition to the above quote: “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.”

Flo: I hope this hasn’t taken up too much of your time, I really am such a huge fan, and i hope we can meet face to face someday.

Donna: I hope so too!

Flo: And please get in touch if you ever want to come to a show/you’re in London and want to go for tea.

Donna: I will. I don’t know if you are ever in New York, but if you are, give me a call – I’d love to meet you for tea (and, maybe take you to the flea market if you want to go!) Thank you for doing this, and for the book club – and thank you of course for your music. And yes, much love to you right back. xxxxx

via Florence and the Machine on Facebook   

3 thoughts on “Between Two Books

  1. Thanks for posting this – I haven’t seen it anywhere. Quite personal for Donna Tartt, and very interesting – I like the idea that writers, unlike other artists, can dress prettily for work ;-).


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