Home burning books Burning Books…on Paper—Jane Fraser

Burning Books…on Paper—Jane Fraser

Jane Fraser’s second collection of short stories, Connective Tissue, is out now with Salt.

Turn down the page, or book mark? 

Despite being given leather book marks, filigree silver bookmarks, bookmarks that come tucked inside the new books I purchase, I’m afraid they don’t get used and I’m a turn-down-the-corner-of-a-page person (or sometimes, even worse – leave open the double spread I’m reading, bend the spine back, and place face-down).

Writing in the margins, or sacred pages? 

Most definitely write in the margins. It’s interesting to see the musings of all my former selves written around the text when I revisit a book.

I found some comments around a poem (The Solitary Reaper) in The Golden Pathway the other day when I was showing my granddaughters. It confirmed their view that I was a bit cooky when they saw the instructions my nine-year-old self had written: You must read this more expressively and sadly. It also confirmed perhaps why I am a failed poet!

A book you associate with a particular life event 

Whenever I’ve had trauma or illness in my life (and there have been many occasions!) I always return to Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I suppose it’s my childhood comfort blanket or my current weighted blanket!

Do you lend without expecting a book returned?

I am sad to say I keep my books to myself these days as those I used to lend were rarely returned. 

Do you keep all of your books, or do you have a regular cull?

I am a hoarder of books and the memories they carry. A cull I take to mean, take some off the shelves and put in a box and take to the attic. A cull also means that many of my husband’s books (but never mine) get taken to the charity shop – he’s such a wide reader, but his spy, crime and detective novels are dispensable.

A book that uplifts you

I veer more to the maudlin and the morose if I’m honest, but I do like tragi-comic and one book that stays with me after all the years is Angela’s Ashes, the memoir by Frank McCourt. If I could name a second, it would be The Good Son, the coming-of-age-novel by Paul McVeigh. And I’m not just saying this because this interview is for Books Ireland! 

Digital or physical copy

I love the physicality of print, expecially the texture of covers. And then there’s the skills in cover design (my husband and I run a branding and design agency). There’s nothing like the smell of a book hot off the press, and also the smell of times gone in the yellow-speckled mustiness of an old one.

Do you finish every book you start? 

I always felt I had to; as though I was ill-discplined if I didn’t and perhaps a failure, or I was not getting something that everyone else seemed to be raving about. Recently, I have given myself permission to give up after a few chapters if it’s not working for me. Time is short when you’re a certain age.

Are you one book at a time, or a polyamorous reader?

Most definitely one book at a time. I am a slow reader and I want to immerse myself in a certain place, a certain time, with a certain set of characters and their fictional lives. I don’t like breaking the spell.

One of your own stories that you’d choose to save over others

I came to writing at what some might say is a relatively late age. Blackberries is the first short story I wrote in 2011 that I think shows me understanding what the short story is all about. It is finally published in my new collection Connective Tissue (Salt).

A book you are reading now

I am reading Oh William, a novel by Elizabeth Strout (who I’m in awe of). Her writing is deceptively simple but carries such a powerful understanding of human relationships – often through suggestion rather than statement. 

A book you’d leave in there to burn

This would be Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen only because my A Level English teacher killed the joy in literature – it was all about analysis and de-construction rather than the thrill of creating story which it took me a long while to rekindle.

You can save one non-book item: what is it? 

An easy choice: the antique, intricately carved, Welsh elm lovespoon that my husband surprised me with on our wedding day. This beautiful object tells a story and is definitely not for burning!

Burning Books…on Paper, is the sister series to our popular podcast.