Last week, I was lucky enough to go to Oxford and meet some of my fellow authors at a Society of Authors event. One of the main subjects which came up in our conversations was just how little time we have to read ourselves. There is always something else going on. Yet every writer needs to read: it’s an important part of developing our own style.
But, on the way to Oxford, I had had time to read – at least, more time than usual. After weighing up the pros and cons of driving, the train, or a coach, I had plumped for the latter, and it turned out to be one of the most comfortable journeys I’d enjoyed in ages. I was able to snuggle back into my seat, check my emails (courtesy of the free onboard wi-fi), and read my book.
And what had I chosen for the occasion?
Well Schiller, actually. Having read German language and literature at university, I still read a lot of German, but I don’t tend to go in for the classics any more. I only decided to read Schiller’s Maria Stuart because I recently saw the Donizetti opera, Maria Stuarda, which is partially based on the Schiller. But it was a good choice, not so much for the intrigues of the plot, but because I enjoyed the language and found myself wondering how Schiller had thought up such beautiful flowing lines. I can’t ever remember reading it as a student, and I know that I wouldn’t have particularly liked it if I had. So perhaps it was just that on this Thursday afternoon, without the pressure of having to write an essay on the work and with no deadlines apart from the rather pleasurable one of arriving at the reception, I had more time to sit back and appreciate the actual language. Not, of course, that I’ll be reproducing it or anything like it in any of my own work.
When I finally arrived in Oxford, there was just enough time to nip up a bell tower and look at the views of the city, and my mind immediately turned to another author: Dorothy Sayers. Surely she wrote another great classic and the ultimate bell tower mystery?