Sally Rooney’s Attention Span Has Improved

How do you organize your books?

I don’t. I just accumulate new ones all the time and leave them lying around on shelves and household surfaces in no order whatsoever.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

I try to bring the New Testament with me wherever I go. But then, I’m not sure whether that’s surprising or not — it’s a very popular book.

What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?

For some reason, I don’t often get around to reading books that I receive as gifts. I think I usually have a fairly long “to-read” list in my head and it’s hard to insert new books in there just because I’ve received them as gifts. I do still enjoy getting books as gifts, though. It’s nice just to have them.

Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite antihero or villain?

I really love Prince Myshkin in “The Idiot.” Sadly, “The Idiot” is the kind of novel where things incessantly go wrong for everyone, which makes it a difficult reading experience for the emotionally invested. I also, and less stressfully, love the heroine of Jane Austen’s “Emma.”

How have your reading tastes changed over time?

I like to think my attention span has improved a little bit, so I can read longer novels now, and also novels with longer sentences. I used to find lengthy paragraphs without line breaks difficult and boring, and now I enjoy them. Come to think of it, I found Henry James almost unreadable five or six years ago, and now I love him! Who knows what I might get into next?

What do you plan to read next?

First, I plan to finish the array of very fine books I am presently reading. Then I have grand plans to read lots of new books that are recently published or soon-to-be published — we’ll see how that works out. I’m trying to write a new novel myself at the moment, which I think makes it harder for me to keep up with the publishing culture. In my experience, writing a novel requires some periods of quiet and contemplation, which at times can feel opposed to the comparatively fast-paced and noisy world of contemporary publishing. But I wish I was better at keeping the two in balance, because I miss out on a lot of good books. I suppose I can always come back to them in 50 years — if I live that long, and if civilization still persists. Big “ifs.”

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