Novelist Roger King lives in nearby Leverett, Mass., and recently spent some time working on a memoir at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs before traveling to London. I caught via e-mail long enough for him to weigh in on his top reads of the last year:
“2006 was the year I rediscovered Marguerite Duras. I picked up an old copy of The Ravishing of Lol Stein in a Rockland Maine bookshop cafe. I only remembered having read The Lover, the best known of her books (later a Renais films), and the screenplay for her intricate and brilliant Hiroshima Mon Amour. I rowed Ravishing back to the sailboat I was sleeping on, and that evening had my heart and mind lifted and intoxicated by the sheer nerve of her writing. She explains nothing, yet you experience everything as deep and true. There is no trimming to court morality, nor any padding to court intellect, and the reader is flattered by this. Every sentence packs a punch. Nearly every sentence breaks the rules. It should not be possible to write like this, but she does. I went on to read Four Novels with similar entrancement, and also two of the shortest books I’ve ever read, The Malady of Death, and The Man Sitting in the Corridor. The latter must be among the sexiest, and most lacerating three thousand words ever written. I have a secret ambition to write books this short with content this full. It’s also true that while I feel entirely alive when reading Duras, I also often forget the detail of what I’ve read; she does not offer the lifeline of a simple storytelling logic. I notice the last New Yorker fiction issue included an old Duras piece (she died in 1996) – not her best – so perhaps I am not alone in my rediscovery.”
Born in London, Roger King is the author of three previous novels, Horizontal Hotel, Written on a Stranger’s Map, and Sea Level. He has worked throughout Asia and Africa as a socio-economist for various United Nations agencies and charities. In 1990 he moved to the United States to teach and concentrate on writing fiction. Since 1997 he has lived Western Massachusetts, writing and recuperating from M.E.Disease. Recently he has advised UN agencies on reconstruction aid for Afghanistan, and is executive producer of a documentary(with Mira Nair) about indigenous peoples, being filmed in 2003in Northeastern India. “A Girl From Zanzibar” was finally published in November 2002, by Helen Marx Books/ Books and Co., after facing extended delays and controversies with other publishers.