Belinda McKeon on books, Twitter and horoscope writing

20 December 2012

Read on for Belinda's extensive list of what's worth reading - the books, the blogs and on Twitter.

2012: A year in books

What is your favourite book of the year? 

I really admired Zadie Smith's NW; it's somehow both subtle and unflinching, especially when it comes to the business of being a woman. Claire Kilroy's novel The Devil I Know, meanwhile, spurns subtlety in the most devilishly marvellous way. Kevin Powers' debut novel The Yellow Birds was rightly lauded; there are moments in this book which made me stop and actually stare at the words. Antonio Tabucchi sadly died this year, which was how I discovered his absorbing and unsettling novel Pereira Maintains, while in memoir, I thought Selina Guinness's The Crocodile by the Door was terrific.

What is your favourite Picador book ever?

Probably The Heather Blazing by Colm Toibin. It was a book I read as a teenager, and I have the battered Picador paperback on my shelf in Brooklyn. It's set 20 years ago but, since it's about a judge presiding over a case involving a young woman who has had an abortion, it's a novel which remains relevant in terms of Irish culture and society in an important way. 

What are you looking forward to reading most next year?

As well as 2012 books on which I haven't caught up - Edna O'Brien's memoir, Keith Ridgway's Hawthorn and Child and Chris Ware's Building Stories - I'm hugely looking forward to the new James Salter novel, All That Is, which will be published (by Picador!) in 2013. It will also be a big year for Irish debut novels, by the looks of things, so I'll be catching up on all those, including books by Susan Stairs, Johanna Lane and Kevin Maher.

2012: everything else

What was your favourite cultural event of the year?

Never in my life did I think I'd find myself watching a boxing match with bated breath. Let alone the other things Katie Taylor's Olympic performance brought me to: hollers, random jabs at the air, tears. But there you go. Seeing someone succeed at something they've worked so hard to achieve is a beautiful thing.

What is your resolution for 2013?

I've got a novel to finish. That will have to do.   

What is your favourite blog or who is your favourite tweeter?

I don't really read blogs anymore, except for maybe The Millions (a superb literary site) and the Paris Review Daily, but I can't be kept away from Twitter, no matter how hard I try. I'm always glad to see tweets from journalists like Ben Greenman, Philip Gourevitch, Jill Filipovic, Elizabeth Day, Sadhbh Walshe and Bella Mackie, while the actor Mark O'Halloran, the comedian Maeve Higgins and the essayist/critic Mark O'Connell also give excellent twittage. Oh, and there's an account called Irish Mammies which is unmissable. If you're Irish. 

Give us one Prediction for 2013?

Since I'm on a deadline, my editor, Paul Baggaley, will send me at least one email with the subject heading "Novel?". These will be followed by the subject heading "Novel???!!!" And then, "I KNOW YOU CAN SEE THESE EMAILS, MCKEON".

What is your favourite poem?

The Snow Man, by Wallace Stevens.

Where do you write?

At my desk in Brooklyn, surrounded by bright yellow walls and waves of panic. 

Can you give one piece of advice to people wanting to become a writer?

Perfectionism is a procrastination device. 

Do you read on paper or ebook?

Almost always paper.

One book you have read more than once?

Richard Yates's Revolutionary Road

Your worst ever job?

I spent the summer of 1999 writing 100 horoscopes a day in a tiny windowless room beside Croke Park in Dublin. I can't say more than this, because I want to save it for a novel, in which it will no doubt comprise a detail which nobody will believe. 

 

Belinda McKeon's beautiful debut novel Solace won the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book of the Year for 2011 and has been lauded by authors and critics alike. It follows the relationship of Mark Casey and Joanne Lynch, and the family feud that threatens to end their affair.

 

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