Monday 17 December 2018

My cultural life: author Elizabeth Strout

Author Elizabeth Strout
Author Elizabeth Strout

Elizabeth Strout is the bestselling author of Anything Is Possible, My Name Is Lucy Barton, Olive Kitteridge and many more. Olive Kitteridge won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009, sold more than a million copies, and was made into a TV series. Elizabeth appears this weekend at the Borris House Festival of Writing and Ideas, which continues today with discussions with more top literary figures including Margaret Atwood, Alan Hollinghurst and Nick Laird. Our own Niall Mac Monagle will introduce poet Michael Longley as he reads from his work. For more visit

Film: Moonlight

It won Best Movie at the Oscars in 2017. I saw this movie alone, something I rarely do, and I feel I will always remember the experience of watching this small African American kid in the low-income part of Miami struggling with his mother, and then later struggling with his sexuality, and ultimately becoming a drug dealer. It was one of the most moving movie experiences I remember having; I was struck in the gut by it, viscerally. It slayed me.

Book: Stoner

My favourite book right now - this changes with time - but right now my favourite book is Stoner, by John Williams, an American writer. It was originally published in 1965 and many people have never heard of it. But it is gorgeous, written as though in Middle C, the tone is that pitch perfect. About a man's life in academia, it is so much more than that. It is a sad and wistful song sung perfectly, and we watch him go through his marriage, his love affair, his fathering an alcoholic, and then finally his death. A perfect book.

TV: Mad Men

When I first watched it I was hooked, who knows why? I found it so compelling and so disturbing. This was the life of many people back in the 1950s and early 1960s, and while it was not my life, it has the ring of truth to it that draws me in completely.

Art: Edward Hopper

My favourite artwork is the work of Edward Hopper. Oh, how I love his paintings, his eye! I suppose my favourite may be the one called 'Rooms By the Sea', which has no figures in it and is simply a painting of sunlight falling through the window with the sea in the background. His ability to show light, and the forms of shadows, is remarkable. People say there is a loneliness to his work and I suppose there is, but it has always been a kind of comfort to me.

Music: Mozart

Mozart's Sonatas, and in particular one that simply has Sonata VII written above it. He is playful and wistful and in this particular piece he carries through a sweet and almost tremulous theme that kind of kills me each time I hear it.

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