This week’s Inheritance Books come from the enigmatic novelist Robert Fanshaw. I’ve met him you know. He looks just like his picture…
Hi Robert, welcome to Inheritance Books. To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Hello Rhoda. I spent a lot of time at school reading comics and science fiction and graduated to my father’s law library which was full of the bizarre verdicts and judgements that shape our society today. Eventually I was called to The Bar – not The Oddfellows, the legal one – and decided commercial law was my vocation because no one gets killed and I thought I might make some money. That turned out to be unimportant because my wife, Caroline, is what you call a high flier and earns a small fortune in medical instruments. We met through a dating agency and discovered we share a common interest in wigs. Caroline has been away a lot on business since we got married four years ago and I have filled my time hanging around in court chronicling her business affairs on a laptop. I am meant to stop cases ever getting to court but I love it when they do because I get lots more writing done.
Caroline sounds like a very interesting lady. Carrying on with the blog, which book have you inherited from generations above?
The book I have chosen, The Call of the Wild by Jack London, is from two or three generations above. It has been passed down father to son and is a 1903 first edition originally bought by my great grandfather. It has been read many times and the beautiful colour plates, studied carefully when I was a child, have been selotaped back into place. The paper is thick, yellow, and smells of pipe tobacco.
It is special to me on a number of levels. It was treasured by my great-grandfather; his two other luxuries were the pipe and a silver pocket watch. And when I read it first, aged eight or nine, it made a deep impression on me. The violence of the men and the cruelty towards the dogs scared me half to death and would probably be considered unsuitable for young children today. But the power of the story left me with an enduring love of fiction. It is also perfect reading for the adult writer because, although the language is old fashioned and the dog psychology wrong from today’s perspective, it contains all the essential elements of a big story. It’s one of the great romantic myths. Okay, it’s about a dog, but who hasn’t felt The Call of the Wild?
Which book would you leave to generations below?
One thing that can stop you writing, or stop you enjoying it, is caring too much about what happens to your creative output. Occasionally, a book liberates you and your writing. I would like to draw the attention of future generations to The Gift by Lewis Hyde, first published in 1983, and republished in paperback by Canongate in 2007. It is the antidote to modern life, especially if you are a writer or any kind of artist. In an age where everything is monetarised, even the water we drink, The Gift is a reminder that the purpose and reward of creative endeavour lies not in seeking fame and fortune, but in trying to transmit something worthwhile or at least entertaining to others. If they like it, they’ll give something back. That’s how things used to be, but it still works today. Give your neighbour a poem or a story or a bag of tomatoes from your greenhouse and see what happens. Blogging is in the spirit of The Gift because no money changes hands.
Thank you for sharing your Inheritance Books with us, Robert. Good luck with the latest book. Bye. Give my love to Caroline.