Alexander McCall Smith: In Praise of W.H. Auden
And from Moby Dick to Patrick O'Brian...
Alexander McCall Smith, best known for the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, sees his latest book, My Italian Bulldozer, hit American shelves today.
What was the first book you fell in love with?
When I was a very young boy I had a book called Ginger’s Adventures. It was all about a dog that fled from a life of pampered luxury to go and live on a farm. I loved it when the dog made it to the country. I recently found a copy of this book and was delighted to discover that I remembered virtually every word of it.
Name a classic you feel guilty about never having read?
I must read Moby Dick. I may have started it when I was much younger—I can’t remember. Like almost everyone, I can quote the first line.
What’s the book you reread the most and why?
I often turn to W.H. Auden’s Collected Shorter Poems. Auden was a magnificent poet, a wise and humane voice. I think he was the finest poet in the English language for many centuries.
Is there a book you wish you had written and why?
I rather wish that I had written Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey series. There are wonderful maritime historical novels, full of information about ideas of science and the world at the time. They are also a beautiful depiction of friendship.