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the bookshelf diaries: krissy kneen

Krissy Kneen

The Bookshelf Diaries takes a peek into the reading life of writers, readers and book lovers. Today, Brisbane bookseller and writer Krissy Kneen draws back the veil on her bookshelf.

What are you reading right now?

I am currently on a writing retreat, first in Melbourne and then I will head to Tasmania to do some solitary work. The books I am reading at the moment were given to me by my friends that I have been writing with. Favel Parrett gave me Ashes in my Mouth, Sand In my Shoes by Per Peterson. I am a fan of his previous book Out Stealing Horses and Favel is too. She bought me a copy of his earlier book and it is just as good as she suggested.

I am also dipping into Eros by Anne Carson. I have been writing with Melbourne writer Steven Amsterdam and we are both Carson fans. I have to read as much of this book as I can before I leave here and (sadly) have to leave this much beloved book with its owner.

I am also picking through Kant and the Platypus by Umberto Eco which is a book that I brought as research. I have to grapple with linguistics in this book I am writing as it is questioning the idea that the self exists within language. Eco’s linguistics work is really straining my brain but it is totally worth it. I love Eco and some of his books are much easier than this. I read a page every so often and I can almost feel my brain expanding with each difficult paragraph.

Where did you buy it?

The Peterson was a gift from Favel. We were browsing through Readings Carlton and talking about the books we love. We have so many favourites in common. I bought her a copy of Julian Barnes Levels of Life in exchange because that book just made me weep for hours. I loved it so much. The Carson I borrowed from Steven Amsterdam. Borrowed books are often the best but having to give them back is hard. I am going to buy myself a copy but it is a really hard to find book. I’ll be checking out all the second hand bookshops in Tasmania in case there is a copy down there.

The Eco I bought from Avid Reader where I work as an events coordinator. I love independent bookstores. They are a place where writers and readers can meet. If you don’t support your local indie they will close and literary culture will be worse for it. We need to keep our little independent bookstores so that we can have book launches and bookclubs and talk about writing and culture. I try to never buy books from big chains and avoid Amazon whenever I can. I will only shop there if I have exhausted all other possibilities.

What’s in your to-read pile?

I really love reading books by my friends. Last Bets by Michaela McGuire just came out and she is an amazing writer and a great friend of mine so I am looking forward to reading it. I have also read Heat and Light by Ellen Van Neerven in manuscript form and am looking forward to reading the final copy when it comes out in August. I also have a copy of Gap by Bec Jessen which is a first verse novel and as I am really interested in poetry I am looking forward to reading that while I am away.

What’s the best book you’ve read in the past year?

I suddenly became interested in poetry when my grandmother died this year. It was as if all I could write was verse for a month after her death. Grief made me write in short intense pieces. It was very strange, like someone suddenly speaking in another language all of a sudden. As I haven’t read much poetry I knew I should start reading more poetry to try to understand this odd new language that I was writing in.

That is when I discovered Anne Carson. Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson has become one of my favourite books of all time.  I felt so excited when I was reading it, like I had discovered some strange treasure and was keeping it locked in a secret box. It is odd because I love this book so much but it isn’t a book I can recommend to just everyone, as it is a verse novel and it is about ancient mythology retold as a contemporary story. It seems to tap into something powerful and primal. I suppose it is for people who are ready to change the way they look at the world.

Where do you like to read?

I love reading on the bus to work. I also like reading whilst I am walking to work, with a book in my hand. I have discovered that I remember more of a book when I am walking and reading, it is like the sentences become a part of my body. I walk past the same place later and remember the words I read there as if those words have been stamped into the landscape. I also like to read in the bath. It is the most relaxing thing but it is easy to end up with a wet book so it pays to be careful how you hold your paperback.

What’s your favourite book of all time?

The Bone People by Keri Hulme is so beautiful. It has a way with language. The words are easy but it is the way she puts them together that is exciting. It is a book about loneliness and choosing family. It is a book about connections. I love it and so do a lot of my friends. It is one of those books that is a favourite for so many people I know.

What do you read to feel inspired?

At the moment I am finding Favel Parrett’s new manuscript When the Night Comes and Sonya Hartnett’s Golden Boys really inspirational. It is something about the voice and the subtlety of the story. They are both really deceptively simple books. They resonate. I want to find a similar deceptive simplicity for the book I am reading so I keep flicking back to those books and trying to figure out how both those authors did it and made it look so effortless. Whatever they did I want to do that with my next book.  I often keep Michael Ondaatje on hand for a bit of a kick start too. The poetry of his language is unsurpassed. Sometimes I will just read a paragraph of an Ondaatje book and I am inspired to go and write my own.

Krissy Kneen is the author of Affection, Triptych and Steeplechase. Her next book, Adventures in the Sex Machine, will be released by Text Publishing in early 2015.

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