Thursday, May 28, 2009

when the pupil is ready, the master will appear

The Guardian asks writers to pinpoint a book that changed their lives: Lolita, Dr. No, and How to Talk Dirty and Influence People, among others.

Alain de Botton: Norman Mailer's Of a Fire on the Moon opened up a whole new way of writing for me. It's a piece of reportage about the 1969 Nasa moon landings, in which Mailer adopts a freewheeling tone that enables him to discuss himself, his recent divorce, fascism in America, race and technology - all with huge intelligence, humour and a crazed energy. The book showed that the barrier between being a novelist and a reporter are in the end rather flexible and that you can take the stuff of ordinary newspaper stories and turn them into something resembling art and philosophy. I couldn't have written my most recent book without this great book as inspiration.