. . . the conception of a novel is like an inebriated sexual encounter at a long and noisy party. Afterwards, it’s clear something transpired but even when you’re holding the baby in your arms you’d be hard put to pin down the moment. Writers are such promiscuous readers, such voracious auditors. They’re the local nymphomaniac lying down for every story that comes her way, the local rake taking whatever he needs, ruthless when he has what he wants.
— from “Inside the Donut Shop: A View of Historical Fiction”
Engaged and entirely engaging, her acerbic wit tempered by grace and good humour, Holdstock writes about war (“The Thin Red Line to the Immanent”, “The Dynamic of Truth”); about the conundrum of being Canadian (“Can ID”); about reading in all its forms (“Anne Hébert”, “Reading the World”) and, centrally, about the vocation, vexations and triumphs of writing in a time when the lessons of the past (“Inside the Donut Shop”) seem to have been lost.
At the heart of this collection is Holdstock the writer, animating us in discussions about the creative process while assessing the actions and images of writing, politics, film, travel and art. Throughout it all we are challenged and put at ease, ushered into the familiar comforts of coffee shop and pub conversations, while her ideas swirl in our heads and shape our reactions.
The contemporary literary essay does not get any better.