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Formerly a book binger, now she savors

Irish writer Anne Enright had a low profile even in her home country until her novel “The Gathering” won the Man Booker Prize in 2007. Since then her novels, short stories, and essays have won international acclaim. Her most recent novel is “The Green Road.” The Dublin resident will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Boston College’s Gasson Hall.

BOOKS: What are you reading?

ENRIGHT: I have a kind of secret stash of books that I read for pleasure or for research. Then I have my official books that are different. I’m working as the laureate for Irish fiction and have selected six books for library book clubs in Ireland. So I’ve just read Molly McCloskey’s “When Light is Like Water.” She’s an American writer who has lived in Ireland, and it’s a really beautiful book. I’m also rereading “The Woman Who Walked Into Doors” by Roddy Doyle, my most favorite book ever. It’s about a woman’s wonderful passion for her husband, a guy who beats her up. It’s about domestic abuse, but it’s sympathetic to the victim and to the abuser.

BOOKS: Are book clubs common in Ireland?


ENRIGHT: Irish readers are incredibly quiet. They are much less opionated than the American readership. They don’t blog. They aren’t tweeting. This program is just a small celebration of the fact that they are the silent engine of the literary Irish machine, which is a great literary machine.

BOOKS: Are Irish readers reluctant to talk to each other about books?

ENRIGHT: There is a freedom in the inside of a book that there wasn’t anywhere else in Irish society for decades and decades. Books were censored until the 1960s. Edna O’Brien’s “The Country Girls” trilogy was burnt in her hometown. In this kind of post-peasant society there was a sense of voodoo about the contents of a book.


BOOKS: What is in your secret stash of books?

ENRIGHT: It’s hard to find time to read just for the heck of it, but I read “The Lonely City” by Olivia Laing, which I thought was great. I read Maggie Nelson, Miranda July. I just really love these young American women writers who write whatever they want to write. I very much enjoyed the oral history “West of Eden” by Jean Stein. I go back to some books talismanically. There’s a wonderful book about how Flaubert wrote “Madame Bovary” by Francis Steegmuller. It’s a biography of the book as much as a biography of the man. It’s a beautiful book for when I’m feeling lost.

BOOKS: Any other books you turn to when you feel “lost”?

ENRIGHT: “The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony” by Roberto Calasso, which is about Greek myths but also about narrative. Also “The Greek Myths” by Robert Graves, which is a childhood book of mine, and Eduardo Galeano’s “Memory of Fire” trilogy, which is somewhere between historical fact and beautiful fiction about Latin America.

BOOKS: Do you read much nonfiction?

ENRIGHT: I read about what might be called psychoanalysis. I read people like the psychoanalyst Adam Philips when he has a new book. The thing about his work is that it spins off into unexpected places. I like a book where you can look up and drift off. I wouldn’t be a huge one for a rattling good story. I like a dreamy read.


BOOKS: Novelists for that kind of reading?

ENRIGHT: Proust does that. Marilynne Robinson, Flaubert, Angela Carter, Toni Morrison, Grace Paley, and Alice Munro. I went to school in Canada for two years. When I came back to Ireland I was picking up early Munro as a way to remind myself of Canada. Only when I became more absorbed in my writing process did I realize how brilliant she is. I love the fact that she’s not telling you that she is brilliant. It sneaks up on you.

BOOKS: Do you have any pet peeves about books?

ENRIGHT: When I was in my 20s I would read a book a day. Now if a book is good I want to spend weeks, and I won’t hurry it. I don’t do it like fast food anymore.


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