cover image The Shakespeare and Company Book of Interviews

The Shakespeare and Company Book of Interviews

Edited by Adam Biles. Canongate, $28 (272p) ISBN 978-1-80530-003-8

In this revealing compendium, Biles (Feeding Time), literary director of the Paris bookshop Shakespeare and Company, compiles public conversations he’s conducted with authors at the store over the past decade. Annie Ernaux, George Saunders, Jesmyn Ward, and others weigh in on such topics as “questions of representation,” “the relevance of the novel as a form,” and “getting into the minds of characters.” Several writers discuss the inspiration for their novels, with Leïla Slimani describing how Lullaby, in which a French nanny kills two children in her care, drew on the sometimes pained relationship she had with her own nanny growing up. Other authors weigh in on their process, as when Marlon James reveals that A Brief History of Seven Killings started as a short crime novel that he rewrote around a different protagonist before realizing the two drafts could be integrated into a “multi-person narrative.” Though most of the contributors are fiction writers, Biles also includes conversations with theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli, who muses on the subjectivity of time, and journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge, who laments the omission of Black British civil rights activism from the country’s history curricula. Biles is a skilled interviewer, soliciting reflections that shed light on how successful authors approach their craft and think about the world. The result is an illuminating glimpse inside the minds of writers. (Oct.)