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 Hub5 min read
How Lakshmi Shankar Became the Voice Behind the Epic Gandhi
Fifty-five-year-old Lakshmi Shankar is sitting in an unremarkable London movie theater. All around her there is the buzz of conversation. She starts to feel butterflies in her stomach, a feeling that, although familiar, she never quite got used to ev
Literary Hub5 min read
Learning of My Father’s Suicide From My Grandmother’s Poetry
At the age of 24, I had the bizarre but enlightening experience of learning from a poem that my father had committed suicide. In a sense, I’d known this for a long time. I was six when he died, and the explanation I’d been given was that he was “sick
Literary Hub13 min read
Podcasting Pro-Tips and Jonny Diamond on Creating Lit Hub Radio
In this episode of the Fiction/Non/Fiction podcast, Whitney Terrell and V.V. Ganeshananthan share how they started the podcast, and offer podcasting tips with help from friends who host their own shows. Then LitHub.com editor-in-chief Jonny Diamond s