Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Date for your diary.

Some weeks ago I wrote:

Preparing yesterday’s lunch-time salad I was listening to MTL’s radio which is always tuned to Radio 4 and heaven help anyone who fiddles with it. I pricked up my ears as a woman with a pleasant voice talked of how – reasonably healthy and independent but in her nineties - she decided to live in a retirement home in Highgate. It sounded so attractive I said:

‘If ever we had to move that’s the sort of place I’d like to go to.’

It got more interesting – her name was Diana Athill and she had her memoirs published when in her eighties. She had had a happy childhood and had her heart broken as a teenager. You can imagine my double take! However she never married, never had children and had a dazzling career in publishing. I look forward to reading her book Life Class (a title used by two other authors) which should be on its way as we speak. It was interesting that she also was greatly inspired by Alice Herz- Sommer who I did a post about recently.

I bought the book and in spite of its fatness have been devouring it with utmost pleasure. It’s the sort of book that you can’t put down except you have to because it is so heavy to hold in bed.

I have always regretted that I never wrote to John Gielgud when he moved me to the core three times in Ivanov. So I wrote a letter of appreciation to Diana and got such a lovely supportive letter back.

Here’s the thing: on June 29th there is an Alan Yentob programme on BBC 1 some after 10pm with a film about Diana – part of a series called Imagine. If you have any interest in the arts or writers don’t miss it.


kenju said...

Called "Imagine" - eh? Wonder where she got that title? LOL

I'd like to read that as well.

Pat said...

Judy: I knew it sounded familiar;)

Eryl Shields said...

I met Diana Athill last year at a book festival, I hadn't been in to see her interview as I was at a friend's reading. However I got to chat to her, briefly, and tell her how much I loved her book Stet. She was lovely and I've been meaning to read her other books ever since. My determination is redoubled now.

Pat said...

Eryl: she is amazing! Do you mean she travelled up to Scotland on a book tour at her age?
Life Class is four books in one and one is Stet which I've almost finished.

BrightenedBoy said...

It sounds like such an interesting book. I've been trying to convince someone I know, who's lived a trying but fascinating life, to pen an autobiography of her own.

It must have been thrilling to receive a response. Would you consider posting it?

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

It sounds like a wonderful book! Oh, how I wish I could see your BBC Channels....Well, maybe it will end up on YouTube!
How lovely that she wrote you back, is so classy and wonderfully mraningfull, too!

Eryl Shields said...

Yes, and she looked like she could travel across the desert if she wanted to, she was very sparky.

I hope Stet is the first part or I'll be all out of sync!

Pat said...

BB: welcome! I feel a bit squeamish about immediately posting the letter. It is quite a journey writing about one's life. It can be therapeutic but it can also revive old memories and emotions that one would rather forget. And it is very time absorbing. I have spent the last four years on it. Good luck with whatever she decides to do.

Naomi: it was a lovely surprise to get an answer - and so soon. Perfectly legible handwriting - unlike mine, I have to type now. She said some letters truly warm the heart and mine did that. I must have been quite nervous because I had a mental quirk and signed with my ex married name so I was quite taken aback when I saw that name on the envelope.
Many of these interviews do turn up on you tube.

Pat said...

Eryl: Stet is the third and IMO it really doesn't matter about the order. It's like meeting someone and you gradually learn more and more about them until you feel you really know them.
I find once one's interest is awakened one finds snippets of info all over the place. I'm looking forward to the programme as a refresher course. You know what my brain is like - a bit colander-like these days;)

Margo said...

Yes, Diana Athill is remarkable. "Somewhere Toward the End" was so honest and funny at the same time. I'd love to send her a note of gratitude myself. How did you reach her?

Madame DeFarge said...

I shall have to look her up on this recommendation and watch out for the programme next week.

Pat said...

Margo: I hope you understand but I think it's better if you do your own research on this.
I am just coming to 'Somewhere Toward the End' which is at the end of 'Life class.'

Madame D: I think you'll find it rewarding. I hope so;)