I've always been fascinated by the operation of memory - the way in which it is not linear but fragmented, and its ambivalence.— Penelope Lively
The most sentimental Penelope Lively quotes you will be delighted to read
We open our mouths and out flow words whose ancestries we do not even know.
We are walking lexicons. In a single sentence of idle chatter we preserve Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Norse: we carry a museum inside our heads, each day we commemorate peoples of whom we have never heard.
We make choices but are constantly foiled by happenstance.
I'm not an historian but I can get interested - obsessively interested - with any aspect of the past, whether it's palaeontology or archaeology or the very recent past.
The present hardly exists, after all-it becomes the past even as it happens.
A tricky medium, time - and central to the concerns of fiction.
The Photograph is concerned with the power that the past has to interfere with the present: the time bomb in the cupboard.
The consideration of change over the century is about loss, though I think that social change is gain rather than loss.
We all need a past - that's where our sense of identity comes from.
I'm now an agnostic but I grew up on the King James version, which I'm eternally grateful for.
It seems to me that everything that happens to us is a disconcerting mix of choice and contingency.
We all act as hinges-fortuitous links between other people.
Getting to know someone else involves curiosity about where they have come from, who they are.
You learn a lot, writing fiction.
I can remember the lush spring excitement of language in childhood.
Sitting in church, rolling it around my mouth like marbles--tabernacle and pharisee and parable, tresspass and Babylon and covenant.
Equally, we require a collective past - hence the endless reinterpretations of history, frequently to suit the perceptions of the present.
I do like to embed a fictional character firmly in an occupation.
There's a preoccupation with memory and the operation of memory and a rather rapacious interest in history.
And in another year everything will be different yet again.
It is always like that, and always will be; you are forever standing on the brink, in a place where you cannot see ahead; there is nothing of which to be certain except what lies behind. This should be terrifying, but somehow it is not.
I'm intrigued by the way in which physical appearance can often direct a person's life; things happen differently for a beautiful woman than for a plain one.
I didn't write anything until I was well over 30.
I have long been interested in landscape history, and when younger and more robust I used to do much tramping of the English landscape in search of ancient field systems, drove roads, indications of prehistoric settlement. Towns and cities, too, which always retain the ghost of their earlier incarnations beneath today's concrete and glass.
The day is refracted, and the next and the one after that, all of them broken up into a hundred juggled segments, each brilliant and self-contained so that the hours are no longer linear but assorted like bright sweets in a jar.
We read Greek and Norse mythology until it came out of our ears. And the Bible.
I believe that the experience of childhood is irretrievable.
All that remains, for any of us, is a headful of brilliant frozen moments, already dangerously distorted by the wisdoms of maturity.
I'm writing another novel and I know what I'm going to do after, which may be something more like this again, maybe some strange mixture of fiction and non-fiction.
Giving presents is one of the most possessive things we do, did you realize that? It's the way we keep a hold on other people. Plant ourselves in their lives.
Every novel generates its own climate, when you get going.
But who knows their own child? You know bits - certain predictable reactions, a handful of familiar qualities. The rest is impenetrable. And quite right too. You give birth to them. You do not design them.
I didn't think I had anything particular to say, but I thought I might have something to say to children.
Deep down I have this atavistic feeling that really I should be in the country.
History unravels; circumstances, following their natural inclination, prefer to remain ravelled.
I'm not an historian and I'm not wanting to write about how I perceive the social change over the century as a historian, but as somebody who's walked through it and whose life has been dictated by it too, as all our lives are.
The idea that memory is linear is nonsense.
What we have in our heads is a collection of frames. As to time itself-can it be linear when all these snatches of other presents exist at once in your mind? A very elusive and tricky concept, time.
Since then, I have just read and read - but, that said, I suppose there is a raft of writers to whom I return again and again, not so much because I want to write like them, even if I were capable of it, but simply for a sort of stylistic shot in the arm.
I rather like getting away from fiction.
I can walk about London and see a society that seems an absolutely revolutionary change from the 1950s, that seems completely and utterly different, and then I can pick up on something where you suddenly see that it's not.
I didn't want it to be a book that made pronouncements.
There's a fearful term that's in fashion at the moment - closure.
People apparently believe it is desirable and attainable.
I have had to empty two family homes during the last few years - first, the house that had been my grandmother's since 1923, and then my own country home, which we had lived in for over twenty years.
The past is our ultimate privacy; we pile it up, year by year, decade by decade, it stows itself away, with its perverse random recall system.
You have this comet trail of your own lived life, sparks from which arrive in the head all the time, whether you want them or not - life has been lived but it is still all going on, in the mind for better and for worse.
Born in Jerusalem, Wadie Said went from being a dragoman to a salesman in the United States and thence to a hugely successful businessman in Egypt.
Grief-stricken. Stricken is right; it is as though you had been felled. Knocked to the ground; pitched out of life and into something else.
Conventional forms of narrative allow for different points of view, but for this book I wanted a structure whereby each of the main characters contributed a distinctive version of the story.
I have long been interested in landscape history, and when younger and more robust I used to do much tramping of the English landscape in search of ancient field systems, drove roads, indications of prehistoric settlement.
Mythology is much better stuff than history. It has form; logic; a message.
It seems to me that anyone whose library consists of a Kindle lying on a table is some sort of bloodless nerd.
Language tethers us to the world; without it we spin like atoms.
If people don't read, that's their choice;
a lifelong book habit may itself be some sort of affliction.
If we had not met, that day, I think I would have imagined you somehow.