Literary Hub

Alexander McCall Smith: In Praise of W.H. Auden

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.

Originally published in Literary Hub.

Related Interests

More from Literary Hub

Literary Hub4 min read
Amy Bloom On The Legacy Of Thom Jones
“The two enemies of human happiness are pain and boredom.” “Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed.” —From Thom’s favorite guy: Schopenhauer Thom Jones’s lies—his sentences and stories—were more persuasive, more importan
Literary Hub5 min read
Worst Pope of All Time?
“. . this monster without one single virtue to atone for his many vices.” –The verdict of the bishops convened by Otto to try Pope John XII Alluring and talented, Marozia was a powerful noblewoman who became a senatrix and patrician of Rome, queen o
Literary Hub1 min read
Anthea Bell, Translator of Sebald, Kafka, and Asterix, Has Died at 82
Anthea Bell, beloved English translator of W. G. Sebald, Stefan Zweig, Cornelia Funke, Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud, E. T. A. Hoffmann, and the Asterix comics, among others, died this morning at the age of 82. She translated primarily French and German