Reading Confessions: Kirsty Logan

Kirsty Logan, photo by Chris Scott
Category: Reading

A novelist, short story writer, journalist and literary editor for The List, Kirsty Logan makes sure she stays busy, but there's always time for a good book (or a bad one)! Her work has received numerous accolades and awards, including the Balticon Poetry Prize, Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award and the Gavin Wallace Fellowship. She was also named one of Canongate's Future 40, which listed the 40 best Scottish storytellers poised to define the next four decades. Her collection of stories, The Rental Heart & Other Fairy Tales, will be released in March 2014.

So, why does this literary dynamo think spinebreaking is a way of showing a book love? And what trashy literature can she not do without? Read on to find out!

 

Do you judge books by their covers?

Of course. If none of us did, book jacket designers would be out of a job! Often I've picked up a book just because the cover is gorgeous, like Lucy Wood's Diving Belles. Luckily the inside was just as beautiful.

I do think it's a shame when the cover doesn't suit the book – eg. Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park, Emma Forrest's Namedropper and Kerry Hudson's Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma, all of which I put off reading because the covers looked fluffy and dull. I'm glad I got past my prejudice, because all three books are now among my favourites. It seems like the cover designers didn't read the books, because the outside doesn't suit the inside at all.

 

Which book has the most disappointing ending?

Susanna Moore's In the Cut. It's a psychological thriller from the perspective of a woman who becomes obsessed with an increasingly violent man. At every stage you think "oh no, how will she get away this time?", and then at the end – well, she doesn't, and he kills her. The end! I feel no guilt about giving away the big reveal, because I don't want any other poor readers to suffer through the book like I did. It's the only book I've ever read where the first-person narrator dies, and I reckon there's a good reason for that. Writers, I implore you to steer well clear of such an ending unless you want to irritate all your readers. 

 

Have you ever cried in public because of a book?

Yes. Also laughed, winced, and felt extremely nauseated (not all from the same book, thankfully). If a book has absolutely no emotional effect on you, put it down and read something better.

 

What’s your opinion on reading in the bath?

It's one of my favourite things to do. I don't know why people are so afraid of dropping books in the water – in over 20 years of bath-reading, it's only happened to me once, and that's because I was trying out an ill-advised experiment of balancing the book on a rail so I could wash my hair while reading. 

 

Where do you stand on spine breaking?

Pro. Also marginalia, turned-down corners, handwritten dedications etc. I like books to be lived-in. What's the point of keeping all your books pristine? Show your love for them by making them your own. 

The exception is books borrowed from other people – then it's bookmarks and unbroken spines.

 

What’s the worst/trashiest book you secretly love?

A horror author called Richard Laymon. His books are terrible in every possible way, and yet I can't help myself. I go to the library, see one of his books and think "Oh no, Richard Laymon! Let's see what awful thing he's written about this time", and before I know it I'm three chapters in.

 

Have you ever pretended to have read a book to impress someone?

Not to impress, but I do find that some books have infiltrated the cultural world so much that I think I've read them when I haven't. Moby Dick, Great Expectations, Of Mice and Men – I have to really think to remember whether I've actually read them. They're so familiar because so many other books reference them. Also I worked in a bookshop for many years, and people often asked for "that book about a big whale" or "the one with Elizabeth Bennet", so I became familiar with many books I hadn't read.

By the same token, I've never seen Star Wars, but know the plot, characters and many lines of dialogue because it's so much a part of mainstream culture.

 

How do you arrange your bookshelf?

I wonder if any writer has only one bookshelf! I have five bookcases, and each shelf is double-stacked, which is very inconvenient as I can't see the ones behind. They're arranged in a system only I can understand. I also leave little stacks of books all over the flat (eliciting much exasperated sighing from my girlfriend). Every time I get an idea for a new story I immediately pull out other books to read as 'research' – but often it takes months or years to actually write it, so I tend to just move the stacks around. It would make anyone sigh.

 

Have you ever borrowed a book from a friend and “forgotten” to give it back on purpose?

Not on purpose, though there are books I've borrowed and still haven't read a year later. But I will, I promise!

More embarrassingly, I once lent someone my copy of Francoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse, which I had read and loved (and covered in marginalia) when I was about 17. I cringe to think of the self-absorbed comments I left in the margins.

 

Is there a book by someone else that you wish you’d written?

Dozens of them. But there's no use pining: I couldn't have written those books, because only those writers could have. And only I could have written my own books. We all have to do what we do.

 

Is there a book you have never been able to finish?

I've left unfinished more books than I've finished. I operate a strict 50-page rule: if I can't find a single enjoyable thing about a book by p50, I stop. There are thousands and thousands of books I want to read, so there's no point wasting time on ones that aren't for me.

 

Kirsty’s new book The Rental Heart & Other Fairytales is out on 15 March. Find out more at kirstylogan.com.

You can see Kirsty perform a reading with Liz Lochhead and others at Rally & Broad on 29 Jan at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow.

Look out for our preview of other notable Scottish books coming out in 2014 this Friday!

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