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Books on my bedside table by Sarah Duguid

The 4th Revolution: How The Infosphere is Reshaping Human Reality Luciano Floridi

I’ve just started reading The 4Th Revolution: How the Infosphere is Reshaping Human Reality and am currently reading a chapter on the way the internet can shape our sense of self. I’m interested by performance, the way people reveal and conceal themselves, and it strikes me that the way people present their lives online is a kind of daily performance – we shape, edit and fictionalise ourselves for an audience. We both are, and are not, our Facebook profiles. But also we have a real relationship with something that isn’t at all real. My mum, for example, has asked me in genuine frustration, if I can get in touch with the Postmaster to ask him why he rejected her email, or has told me ‘the man at Amazon has written to tell me he’s sent my order.’ There is a strange disconnect between our ‘real’ lives and this automated, robotic other world that we engage with as if it were real. I do wonder where it’ll all end.

The Daylight And The Dust: Selected Short Stories Janet Frame

I’ve got a copy of Janet Frame’s short stories, introduced by Michèle Roberts, waiting to be read. Michèle was a mentor to me. We met a few times at the Tate café to work on drafts of my novel Look At Me and she helped and influenced me enormously. I love Michele’s fiction, especially her experiments with form, and from what I’ve read so far of Janet Frame, I think she’s going to be right up my street.

Atomised – Michel Houellbecq

I feel as though I shouldn’t be a fan of Michele Houellbecq because women don’t do well in his fiction. Hate seems to be his subject and yet he does it so well, that in spite of myself, I always buy his books. His second, Atomised, I thought was completely brilliant, and even though his later work seems odd and erratic at times, I still find them captivating and so his latest, Submission, is on my pile.

Selected Diaries – Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf’s Selected Diaries is a book I dip in and out of. The small details of her life: who came to lunch, travelling into town, buying typewriter ribbons are addictive and compelling in the way that the details in other people’s diaries can be. In one entry she writes how E.M Forster shrank away from her when she bumped into him in the street – which she interpreted as him being intimidated by a bright and successful woman. Another entry: “Herbert Fisher astounded us by asking himself to lunch tomorrow, and we have been to Kew, and seen the Magnolia trees in blossom.” I could read that kind of stuff all day.

Practicalities Marguerite Duras

I’ve just re-read Practicalities by Marguerite Duras. It’s a series of conversational essays, covering topics such as Home, Men, Writers’ Bodies. At one point she describes a line of ants moving along a wall. Strangely, I’ve noticed that lines of ants are a recurrent theme in contemporary fiction – Cusk, Levy and Ferrante all feature ants. I put a line of ants in my own novel, Look At Me, in a kind of homage to Duras. I read all the time while I’m writing. I like the idea that writing is a conversation with writers who’ve gone before – I don’t aspire to writing in a bubble.

 

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