Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Club: with Zoe Walker

It's time to sit down with self confessed bookworm and Dahl enthusiast Zoe Walker of NZ Herald's Viva for her instalment of Book Club. I've been looking forward to this one, as Walker is one of our best local fashion writers and literature so clearly shapes a huge part of her work, taste and who she is as a person.

What was the last book you read? 
I just finished Grace Coddington's memoir. It's great, very inspiring work wise, but she does brush over a lot of her personal story. Now I'm reading A Writer's Life by Gay Talese, and next on my list for summer is Tom Wolfe's new Back to Blood. I've also been on a Nora Ephron binge: Wallflower at the Orgy, I Remember Nothing, Heartburn, I Feel Bad about My Neck. She was a wonderful, hilarious writer - I love that she's scathing but not snarky.
Do you have a preferred genre? 
I go through phases. Right now I'm really into essay collections, before it was royal biographies. I went through a phase a few years ago when my goal was to read all 'the classics' - inspired by Rory's Book Club, this list of must-read books that The WB had on their Gilmore Girls website. I didn't get very far through the list, but would love to try again. [FYI the list is here:]

Sartorially speaking, do you have a favourite book or character? 
Not so much a favourite book or character, but you can tell when a writer is interested in the power of dress. I do like Jo March's 'scribbling suit' (Little Women), Tom Wolfe's Social X-rays (The Bonfire of the Vanities), most characters from Truman Capote and Jeffrey Eugenides (one of my favourite authors). I'm not a fan of Bret Easton Ellis, but I can appreciate his obsessive focus on style and fashion, in American Psycho especially.
Are there any books that have informed your personal style? 
Probably Madeline. All those Peter Pan collars...
Likewise with your work? 
Yes, reading is essential for a writer. We read so much online now, half the time not even reading it properly, that it's important to stop, sit down and actually read something with a considered structure, narrative, character development etc. Reading also helps me when I'm feeling uninspired or have writer's block. Although sometimes it can make matters worse to read something by an amazing writer! I felt inspired and intimidated after reading Gay Talese's Frank Sinatra has a Cold and Other Essays. He is an incredible writer! Jaw droppingly good. From a fashion point of view, I like to dip in and out of D.V. by Diana Vreeland and The Penguin Book of 20th-Century Fashion Writing edited by Judith Watt. The Beautiful Fall by Alicia Drake is a good fashion 'read'. My first editor told me that every fashion writer should own a copy of The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion; I'm glad I took her advice. I have a ridiculous number of coffee table fashion books too, but I sometimes find them a little pointless - they are beautiful, but I rarely sit down and look at them properly, let alone read them...

When do you do your reading? 
Usually in bed, always in big bursts. A lot over summer.
Where do you get your books? 
I prefer second-hand books; they're cheap and they have a history. And I love the smell of old books. I'm also obsessed with book fairs - I could happily spend a day going up and down the rows, filling up a box with old books and magazines. The Variety Monster Book Fair and the 24 Hour Book Fair are two favourites in Auckland. I've rediscovered the library too. It's such an amazing resource: free books! I love that they are community spaces, although I wish people would respect them more. My mum is a librarian and she has told me some horror stories.
As a child did you have a character you identified with? 
Mostly imaginative girls having adventures: Milly Molly Mandy, Madeline, Mary Lennox (The Secret Garden), George (The Famous Five). I adored Roald Dahl's Matilda - I was a shy bookworm - and loved Elizabeth Bennett too.

Do you have a favourite author? 
I don't really feel like I've read enough of any writer's work to call them a favourite to be honest.
What's your guilty pleasure book? 
I suppose Valley of the Dolls, one of my favourite books, would be considered a ‘guilty pleasure’ because it’s trashy. But trash has its place!

What were the most formative books from your youth? 
I think that reading all those Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl books inspired my early interest in writing. I read The Beauty Myth as a teenager and it opened my eyes to the influence of the media - before that I honestly didn't know that the magazines I was obsessed with were shaped a lot by beauty advertising. So naive! And books like Catcher in the Rye and The Bell Jar; books that every teenage girl loved. 
What was your favourite book from your childhood? 
So many... The Faraway Tree series. Actually, anything by Enid Blyton: The Famous Five, Noddy, Secret Seven, The Wishing Chair. Every single book by Roald Dahl. Madeline. Milly Molly Mandy. 'Lift the flap' books - I loved Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell. The Secret Garden. The Magic School Bus. Berenstain Bears. Richard Scarry books. I graduated from The Babysitter's Club to Sweet Valley High - I am still obsessed with the pastel cover art. Like every 90s child, I loved Goosebumps and was obsessed with Looking for Alibrandi and the Tomorrow When The War Began series too. I could keep going!

Do you have any favourite illustrated books? 
Definitely the Madeline books from Ludwig Bemelmans.
Is cover design important to you? 
I think it's an under-appreciated art form. I've bought books based on cover font - like Jackie Oh! by Kitty Kelley.

Are there any books that you just could not finish (or even start) for whatever reason? 
Yes, Ulysses by James Joyce, anything from Tolstoy and Proust; smarty pants books that you're supposed to have read.
What's your favourite book-to-film combo? 
I like to think that the book is always better, but I suppose there are some that I've liked: both versions of Breakfast at Tiffany's are wonderful, and wildly different. An Education, Rosemary's Baby, The Virgin Suicides, Picnic at Hanging Rock - total 20-something former blogger clich├ęs. And I adored all those 90s films based (loosely) on literature - Clueless is the ultimate, plus 10 Things I Hate About You, She's All That, Cruel Intentions
Do you or would you use a Kindle/eBook? 
I downloaded an eBook earlier this year and felt like I was betraying someone. I understand why people like them, but I just can't see myself going there. I'm old fashioned. I like to hold a book, I like the smell, I like to turn down the pages, and I'm obsessed with full bookshelves. It’s my dream to one day have a home library.

You can read more from Zoe about how books have influenced her here.

Images Supplied

1 comment:

  1. Great interview Emma! I loved all Zoe's favourite childhood books too. Roald Dahl is amazing.