‘It’s fascinating to see things from your point of view.’ In preparing 'Molluscs and Me' for publication I’ve asked some of the people who appear on its pages to read it. I felt I needed their permission to include them and it’s been a really useful source of feedback.
The other thing I’ve got to do this weekend is make sure I’ve changed all the names that need changing to disguise real people. It’s one of the things that stopped me writing for a while. Mine is a real story but how could I include real people? The answer is wrapped up in the definition of memoir. For a long time I resisted the label ‘memoir’ because to me it had pejorative connotations. I saw it, one the one hand as a way that powerful people re-wrote history to suit themselves, and on the other hand as nostalgic ramblings. But then I found Diana Athill’s books and I developed a strong admiration for her and began to see memoir in a more favourable light. She is amazing. Born in 1917 Diana has lived and still lives a life that is worth reading about. The first of her books I read is: ‘Somewhere Towards the End’ which is reflections on what it is like to be old (won the Costa biography award). I was hooked and then went on to read ‘Stet’ about her central role in setting up Andre Deutsch and her experiences in the publishing business. She is still giving talks and writing books – what a role model for the rest of us. On 29 April this year, at 96, Diana contributed to a radio 4 discussion on her passion for the letters of Lord Byron (https://twitter.com/BBCRadio4/status/328873742702874624). At the beginning of ‘Somewhere Towards the End’, Diana, always looking forward to the future, buys a tiny tree fern. At the end is a postscript describing how well it is growing. She says: ‘I was right in thinking that I will never see it being a tree, but I underestimated the pleasure of watching it being a fern.’