Welcome to Triple Choice Tuesday. This is where I ask some of my favourite bloggers, writers and readers to share the names of three books that mean a lot to them. The idea is that it might raise the profile of certain books and introduce you to new titles, new authors and new bloggers.
Today’s guest is Australian writer Fiona McFarlane, whose debut novel, The Night Guest, has been shortlisted for this year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award.
Fiona was born in Sydney, and has degrees in English from Sydney University and Cambridge University, and an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a Michener Fellow.
Her work has been published in Zoetrope: All-Story, Southerly, the Best Australian Stories and the New Yorker, and she has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Phillips Exeter Academy and the Australia Council for the Arts.
Without further ado, here are Fiona’s choices:
A favourite book: A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
Really, I could have just chosen O’Connor’s Complete Stories, but A Good Man is such an extraordinary collection all on its own, from the title story – oh, the Misfit and the grandmother and that final line of dialogue – to the first sentence of ‘Good Country People’: “Beside the neutral expression she wore when she was alone, Mrs. Freeman had two others, forward and reversed, that she used for all her human dealings.” O’Connor writes with such precision, lucidity and insight, she’s almost terrifying, and she’s a writer I always turn to if I feel stalled in my own work.
A book that changed my life: The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald
I lived in East Anglia for four years, and Sebald’s Rings of Saturn altered the landscape for me completely: invested it with such significance, memory, and connection to histories of all kinds. It’s such a personal book and yet so astonishingly generous, and the measured beauty and authority of Sebald’s prose has the wonderful quality of being both lulling and exhilarating at the same time. The Rings of Saturn changed my understanding of what a book could do, what a walk could mean, and how an encounter with the world in a state of curiosity and receptivity might change everything.
A book that deserves a wider audience: Futility by William Gerhardie
Futility is such a bleak title for a very, very funny book about pre-revolutionary and Bolshevik Russia, love, bureaucracy, conversation, and the interminable act of waiting. Gerhardie, an Anglo-Russian, was born in 1895, and Futility was his first novel, written while he was still a student and published in that Year of Literary Years, 1922. Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, H.G. Wells, Katherine Mansfield and Edith Wharton (quite a lovely, eclectic list, isn’t it?) thought he was a fabulous writer, but 60 years later, few people have heard of him. What a shame!
Futility is the brilliant, inventive, absurd account of Andrei Andreiech’s hopeless infatuation with the beautiful Nina and all that it leads to – heartache, train journeys and a lot of complicated scheduling – as Russia changes forever. I was lucky enough to find a copy in an Oxfam bookshop, and now I recommend it to everyone I know.
Thank you, Fiona, for taking part in my Triple Choice Tuesday!
I’ve not read any of these books, although I have read Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood and W.G. Sebald’s The Emigrants and enjoyed them enough to want to explore the rest of their work. I’ve not heard of Futility, which sounds rather intriguing!
What do you think of Fiona’s choices? Have you read any of these books?
2 thoughts on “Triple Choice Tuesday: Fiona McFarlane”
Flannery O’Connor’s Complete Stories is an ongoing project for me this year and I am currently reading The Rings of Saturn. Sebald is not an author for ebook reading, due to the variety of photos and other images inserted along the way. Just a joy.
I read Gerhardie’s “The Polyglots” when I was in my 20s and found it a memorable read. Then as now Gerhardie was barely remembered. I think he’s a ‘writer’s writer’ in some ways, as opposed to a ‘reader’s writer’ — influenced by many (and it shows) and influencing many after him.