Sunday 5 April 2009

PD James

This July I will be giving a series of workshops in on Lifewriting and recently a close friend's drew my attention to PDJames' memoir Time to be Earnest. This writer's technique, of taking the events of a single year and delving backwards and forwards into a long life, is inspired. The memoir is a close and fascinationg read. Her highly detailed observations of her childhood feel like a visit to another planet. And how cleverly she applies appropriate restraint in alluding to more painful aspects of experience! In all our lives there are areas where discussion and disclosure would be betrayal.

More significant here is PD James' magisterial take on her metropolitan literary and political world - also like a visit to another planet. I think her comment on the Booker Prize process is particularly shrewd. As a writer I appreciate her masterful analysis of the detective novel and her dry asides about genre and literary novels. And I note that she only stopped her full time job shortly before she was due to retire. (I find myself comparing this with new young writers I meet who are desperate to drop their jobs and dedicate their lives to succeeding in business of writing...)

Most of all PD James is inspirational - fitting this memoir in between novels and writing ( at 77, then) of a life full of work, incident, people, journeys, talks etc. She is a model to us all. This memoir made me, for one, optimistic about a writer's life.
What do you think?

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