Reviewer Spotlight: Gaye Kelly


Anatomy of an Uncustomary Writer

Reviewer Spotlight - Gaye Kelly

What’s the oddest thing you own?

Rather than retaining my babies’ umbilical cords or a pair of either of their first walking shoes cast in bronze, I’m afraid that the oddest thing I own must be a bus ticket from 1980. A standing joke of my long-suffering partner is that I probably still have every bus ticket since I was a young adult. I try hard to de-clutter my life in many ways but I horde all print materials in the expectation that they ‘might come in useful one day.’ That, and I neglect to empty handbags. The result is an astonishing collection of reports, files, books, catalogues, programs…and bus tickets dating back to 1980.

Any writing rituals?

Early in the morning, just after breakfast, when I have the house to myself, I set up my laptop, notebooks, files, some of the aforementioned reports, papers, etc., and get stuck in. Notwithstanding the availability of information via the web, I need the feeling of having plenty of backup reference material close to hand. When I’m working on something specific, with a deadline, then I also work late in the evening, after dinner. If I lived on my own, I would keep at it and forget to go to bed.

What substance (prescribed, illegal or from the freezer section) most inspires your writing?

Tea. Lots of it: I take a cup of tea (milk, no sugar) and I start to write. Two hours later, pause— ‘I think I’ll have a cup of tea…’ It turns into a great excuse to get up, walk around, do some different tasks and put the kettle on. I repeat all of the above several times through the day until the evening, when the tea is replaced with wine. How do I ever get anything done?

What’s the biggest advantage of your greatest disadvantage?

I admit to being a worrier—with a capital W. You might think there cannot be any possible advantage to wasting time and emotional energy on worrying about what might be, but I’ve just realised there is one: I’m rarely taken by surprise and I’m unconsciously prepared for whatever the world might throw at me—whether I need to be or not! Now what kind of warped mind and twisted logic is that??

Which language do you wish you could speak to ask what question to whom?

Oh, French, of course, which I’ve been struggling to perfect for years now, without success. I would ask Simone de Beauvoir (who’s been an inspiration for years) how a woman of her intellect and beauty tolerated the arrogance and disloyalty of a man such as Jean Paul Sartre.

Describe your relationship with inspiration.

What relationship? Just like de Beauvoir with Sartre, now you see it, then for a long time you don’t…

The formula for the perfect day is:

I rise full of energy, the sun is shining. As in Czesław Miłosz’ wonderful poem, ‘Gift’, I envy no-one, nor harbour ill will towards anyone. My children are all busy, friends are coming to dinner; I walk, listening to music. Life is good.

Anatomy of the Book

Do you prefer…

…chapter titles or chapter numbers? Numbers; chapter titles feel manipulative and distracting.
…short stories, a series, or a collection of poems? Depends on my mood. A series is good when you don’t want to leave a book. Poems have their place, but I enjoy them in small doses, not necessarily in a full collection. Short stories are too short.
…footnotes, maps or indices? I’m a footnote junky. I can’t read maps—genetic indisposition. Indices are useful for browsing in non-fiction works.
…hardcover, softcover or digital cover? Hardcover is a real treat, but expensive. Despite teaching digital media and taking advantage of new technologies, I would never read an e-version of anything other than work-related documents.

Anatomy of the Reading List

What does your reading list look like? Is it a pile of books, a list of titles or a mental medley of thoughts?

A pile of books by the bed (signalling ownership, in case anyone gets tempted to walk off with one of them!) together with a mental wish list.

Which book do you feel obligated to read next?

Le Flâneur by Edmund White, because I’m in Paris right now and this is a perfect description of a typical Parisien pastime: sauntering, swanning, or meandering around this beautiful city.

Which do you actually wish you were reading right now?

Since my brain is melting trying to absorb the French language in this heat, anything by Lee Child, who is a wonderful, macho distraction.

Uncustomary Book Reviews Written by Gaye Kelly: Here’s the list.

1 Comment

  1. margaret dromey says:

    Yes that sums up the Gaye I know. Look forward to reading many more reviews.

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