Kari Gislason - co-author of Saga Land
Tell us about your book – what inspired you to write it?
This book is really the product of a new friendship, and the happy coincidence of both Richard and I having a strong desire to go to Iceland and write about it. I was born in Reykjavík, and in that sense this project was, for me, about travelling back. But there's always the hope of new discoveries. Travelling with Richard led to experiences of the country, and new realisations of my life there, that I don't think I would have had on my own. And for him, I think, going to Iceland fulfilled a lifelong wish to see Iceland, and discover its history. He responded to the place very openly and warmly, and I think that comes through in Saga Land and in the way the two of us relate on the page.
Which book would you want to read again for the first time?
There are certain moments in my reading life that I wish I could have again. I guess it's that youthful feeling of marvel and total absorption. The first time I got that as an adult was reading nineteenth-century novels. I couldn't put down War and Peace when I first read it. I was completely hooked on the world that Anthony Trollope created in his long novels, and as a result I think I read every single one of them during my early twenties. When I first read Wuthering Heights as an eighteen-year I was overwhelmed: looking back, I think I gave myself up entirely to the action of that novel and to the characters in it. I suppose rather than a particular book, I still search out that less critically-minded experience of reading.
Which author/s living or dead would you like to have dinner with?
When in the past I was doing quite a lot of short-form travel writing, I read Clive James's collections of nonfiction, and had one of those moments when you feel quite close to an author, almost as though you know them. And then by chance I almost met him, but didn't. And, coincidentally, that happened at the very time I was reading some essays about meeting your heroes. I think I have to answer Clive James.
What’s in your reading pile now?
I work as a lecturer at QUT, and this semester I'm starting a new subject called Australian Voices. It's about contemporary writing, and the conversations that people are having about literature, publishing, the reading of Australian works. At the same time, my colleague Sarah Holland-Batt and I are putting together a public seminar series that has a similar focus. My reading at the moment is very much connected to these two projects. It includes Ryan O'Neill's The Brilliant Careers; a book about Alan Moorehead by Thornton McCamish called Our Man Elsewhere; an Australian YA novel Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley; and the poet Anthony Lawrence's recent collection Headwaters.
We know you are a talented writer, do you have any hidden talents?
Sometimes the more important hidden talents aren't the ones you're hiding from others, but rather the ones you're yet to discover about yourself. For me, it was the discovery I made in my twenties that I loved teaching. Until I began tutoring work at universities, I saw myself as being a bit reclusive. Teaching showed me that I wasn't really that person, or that that was a person I'd become rather than someone I wanted to be.
Can you tell us what you are working on now?
My next project is also set in Iceland, this time a novel.