Fay Weldon claims to favour male writers over female ones and praises Orwell for his portrayal of oppressive social situations.
Fay Weldon is a playwright, essayist and author of more than 30 books, including The Life and Loves of a She-Devil and Praxis. Her latest novel The New Countess is out now.
Since it was published in 1902, this children’s classic has never been out of print. It’s metafictional, in that the writer intentionally lets you know that she’s involved in the story. I took it out of the library in Christchurch, New Zealand, where I grew up. The books I’d read before were very obviously written by adults about children, but Nesbit unites reader and writer in this story. I was a troubled ten-year-old; we were rather poor and my father wasn’t around, so to find characters in this book with problematic friendships, torn loyalties and financial worries was very appealing. Nesbit showed that children have just as many complex emotions as grown-ups—but without the adult solutions.
Given a choice, I tend to choose male writers over female ones, and Ian McEwan is a very fine writer indeed. In Solar, he tackles global warming. The protagonist—a brilliant physicist and expert on renewable energy—is a philandering, gluttonous rascal. I love how McEwan gets away with creating such a brilliant anti-hero within a novel that examines an important subject with scientific accuracy. I find that sort of literary tension really interesting, and it’s books like this—ones that challenge the conventional telling of a story—that I like to both read and write.
This novel weaves politics and social pressures into a love story. I read it with admiration in the 50s, and now it’s an almost-perfect account of the world today! It seemed the best way to write—instructive fiction in which politics and personal lives are inextricably linked. I didn’t have any desire to be a writer at that time, but Orwell, as well as Shaw and Huxley, greatly influenced my later work, which also examines how behaviour is determined by the often-oppressive social situations in which we’re forced to live.
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