“Literature should be as dissolute, debauched, decadent and degenerate as possible and one of my writing goals has been to be regarded as a female Bukowski.”
Next in our Burning Books…on Paper series is author Rosemary Jenkinson, whose new collection Marching Season is out now with Arlen Press
BURNING BOOKS…ON PAPER—ROSEMARY JENKINSON
If your house was on fire, what books would you save from the flames?
A book from your early days?
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
When I was eight, I read Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I loved this novel as it was about a girl who wrote close to the bone portrayals of her classmates in her diary only for them to read it and turn on her. The book inspired me to buy my own diary – though, just as life imitates art, I later wrote about my classmates and had to face my own retribution!
A book you return to over the years?
I’ve always adored this picaresque tour of the female body by the master of louche douchery.
In Women, the narrator’s discovery of the clitoris at age fifty-one is refreshingly honest and his encounters become increasingly soulful. Literature should be as dissolute, debauched, decadent and degenerate as possible and one of my writing goals has been to be regarded as a female Bukowski.
A book that taught you something important?
Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis
Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis taught me to see the value in animal appetites and to seek out life-enhancing adventures.
The novel is full of philosophy, but one of the most powerful sections of the book is when Zorba urges the narrator to go to bed with a lonely widow. In Zorba’s words, ‘If a woman sleeps alone it puts shame on all men. God has a very big heart, but there is one sin He will not forgive. If a woman calls a man to her bed and he will not go.’ As soon as I read this, it dawned on me that to offer fleeting moments of sexual comfort is the ultimate kindness in life.
A book that makes you laugh?
Sedaris cynically recounts his time as a department store elf named Crumpet, surrounded by weak-bladdered kids who urinate in the snow outside Santa’s Grotto. Nothing like a dose of black humour to season your festive hilarity.
Anything you’ve written that you’d leave in the flames?
I’d leave my play The Bonefire to the flames, as the name befits a good burning.
A book you are reading now
In any fire, I’d choose to save the excellent short story collections Nobody Needs to Know by Tanya Farrelly and Fugitive by David Butler. I’d particularly recommend Tanya’s story ‘No Star Lesbian’ about thwarted desires and David’s ‘The Tailor’s Shears’, a striking tale of revenge by a writer on a publisher who made her dance for years on a string of false promises and development hell (we’ve all been there).
A book you’d leave in there to burn
Katherine Mansfield’s In a German Pension is a total borefest and belongs in the bin. How can a woman who led such a colourful bohemian life have written something so dull?