Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Interview: Ramona Koval

Writer, journalist and broadcaster Ramona Koval needs no introduction - she was the presenter of ABC Radio National's The Book Show and is editor of Best Australian Essays

We asked Ramona some questions about her reading life and her new book, By the Book - about reading and living, and about the authors that have written themselves into her life: from Oliver Sacks to Oscar Wilde, Christina Stead to Grace Paley.

Ramona will also be here at Shearer's at 7pm on Monday October 29th. More details here, or call 9572 7766 to book your tickets.

Your new book By The Book is very much about the importance of reading. What is it exactly about books and reading that you think is so powerful? 

Books and reading are the main ways that we learn empathy,  a value that is  vital to a life well-lived.

What made you want to write this collection of essays?

I wanted to think about reading and what it has meant to me, as I had made my living through reading for so many years, and I still love the thrill of opening a book and wondering just how I will fall into its pages. 

What was the first book you read that made you fall in love with reading?

I loved reading Hills End by Australian children's writer Ivan Southall, and realised how transported and frightened and relieved you could be without leaving your room.

What was the most recent book you've read that made you fall in love with reading all over again?

I reread the short stories of Colette as I was writing about them, and was surprised to see how they still moved me.

Which interview with an author are you the most proud of?

I have my favourites which I collected a few years ago in "Speaking Volumes: conversations with remarkable writers" and when I look at that book and flick through the chapters, I can't believe I was so lucky to have had a job where reading and talking was the main component. 

Which interview would you rather forget? 

I wouldn't want to forget any of them, even with the more difficult people. I learned so much both from reading their work and  speaking with them, sometimes more about their insecurities and personal foibles, and how to manage extreme situations.

What do you think makes someone a 'reader'? 

Readers are people who realise that they can live more than just one life by opening a novel and they can travel the world by reading someone's account of a place they will never go. And that any of the most difficult times in our lives can be soothed by losing yourself, even for a little while, in a well-written book.

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