98 Comments
Oct 23, 2023Liked by M. E. Rothwell

Lucy Maud Montgomery. We’re both Canadians who have lived on islands on the east coast as well as in Ontario, and have both loved and missed the island lifestyle. We both love books, nature, journaling, education and female empowerment. I’ve also read her published journals and feel wholeheartedly that we think the same at our core. I feel certain we’d be kindred spirits if I’d been alive at the same time as her and met her. 😌✨

Expand full comment

Jane Austen. We would people watch together for hours.

Nancy Mitford - hours of wicked gossip.

Byron - I’ve always been susceptible to mad, bad and dangerous to know

Expand full comment
author

I really want to say Byron but I worried I'd find him to be unbearable 😂

Expand full comment

As long as you let him have all his own way, matched him drink for drink, and told him his verse was remarkable, I think you'd be ok....just don't look sideways at Caroline Lamb.

Expand full comment

Only after the first two hundred verses.

Expand full comment

If I'm being honest, Janet Malcolm.

If I'm being ambitious, Henry David Thoreau.

And if I'm being suicidal, Hunter S. Thompson.

Expand full comment
author

Thinking of meeting Hunter S. Thompson in real life always just reminds me of that clip of him and Conan 😂

Expand full comment

haha yeah, two people who seem exceptionally immune to making friends.

Expand full comment

Thoreau would be a tricky one!

Expand full comment

Anyone who has read my Substack would be able to guess that my answer is Borges.

Expand full comment
author

The YouTube algorithm has figured out that any clip of him speaking is an easy way to keep me on the platform. Would have loved to have met him

Expand full comment

A Borges fan? I'll subscribe

Expand full comment

I'd love to meet him for sure -- more than any other writer -- but I'm sure he could get along nicely without me as a new great friend. Partly because I'd like to quiz him on whether or not he believes he exists. The works suggest not, but I still can't find anything definitive in the biographies.

Expand full comment
founding

Louis Begley. I met him once when we were walking our dogs in the neighborhood. I recognized him from his book jacket photos, and he was impressively embarrassed to meet a fan.

I had previously emailed him a question I had about one of his books and confessed that I had been working on a writing project. He answered my question and replied that deciding to write is a "self-inflicted" wound.

Begley's best known for "Wartime Lies." but I love his other books that provide such sharp insights into the world of the 1%.

P.S. He may already consider me a stalker.

Expand full comment
author

Has he, or has he not, got a restraining order on you, David? 😂

Also, self-inflicted wound is such a funny way of putting it!

Expand full comment
founding

I received some legal letter I didn't quite understand about thirty feet....

Expand full comment

That's a really difficult (and thus a good) question without knowing too much about various artists' personalities (for the most part). I can really only judge based on their work.

I will say that there are some writers here on Substack whom I would be delighted to known better and I think we would be kindred spirits in person in addition to here. That's a gift.

Expand full comment
author

I see what you're going for here, Ben - and yes, we would be best friends in real life 😎

Expand full comment

I couldn't agree more and I look forward to meeting you. We'll make it happen. :)

Expand full comment

Awww. You two. You're both so cute! I can hardly wait to see what story you come up with together once you do meet in person. I'm sure it will happen.

Expand full comment

But Kim, you're coming, right? That's what Mikey talked about this afternoon.

Expand full comment

I'd love to, but I'll leave it to the younger generation for now and look forward to the stories. That being said, I'll be in Portugal in 10 days if anyone's in the neighbourhood? I'm definitely going to look for libraries and try to get some pictures to rival some of the cool ones Mikey's taken over the last several months. We'll see.

Expand full comment

John Green. My personal hero. Reminds me to be earnest. Reminds me it’s okay to be optimistic.

Expand full comment

Mary Shelley and Octavia Butler - I just get a great vibe. Such iconic science fiction queens

Expand full comment

The world is a less interesting place since Leonard Cohen left it. I held out hope I would meet him and that we would fall in love. Although he wrote a song to me, no matter what maneuvers I made to get close to him all I got was permission to use "Suzanne" for my podcast music, and, although I have no proof of it, I like to think he saw my pleas and also wrote "I'm Your Man" for me.

Expand full comment

I’d love to have known Mark Twain and smoked a cigar with him. Besides his classic books, he’s come up with some of my favorite funny quotes, like “Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.” He’s also said some true-for-me quotes like “Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” Twain was good friends with Nikola Tesla, who I would’ve loved to have met also.

Expand full comment
author

Cigar with Mark Twain would be the ultimate

Expand full comment

I think, Tolkien and I could be good pals. I could help him run a few DnD campaigns.

Also, Kurt Vonnegut always seemed like someone I'd like to have a pint with.

Expand full comment
author

I love the idea of being friends with Tolkien but I think we need to be honest with ourselves on how long we could bear to listen to the intricacies of Elvish grammar before we change tables at the pub

Expand full comment

What? You claim to appreciate great literature, but disdain Elvish grammar? A few hours of it, maybe not more than a dozen or so on your first go at it, might do you some good.

Expand full comment

True, true, but I am pretty boring as well. I think we'd be able to make concessions to each other.

Expand full comment
author

😂😂😂

Expand full comment

I once had an incredibly awkward and strange dinner with six other people, one of whom was my favorite short story writer at the time. I’d prefer we never met 😂 I think I’d love Kafka.

Expand full comment
author

Was it a case of don’t meet your heroes?

Expand full comment

Definitely. Although, there wasn’t anything wrong with him, but there also wasn’t anything right. It may have just been that the conditions in which we met were odd. The whole scenario was like the setup to a punchline that never came. It’s both too long and too boring a story to tell. I’ve never tried to meet him again, though, I have a feeling it might be worse the second time around.

Expand full comment

The list of authors I admire and respect is very long...but as to meeting them, I don’t know. I’m a tongue-tied introvert and would be too shy to say anything and only think of what I could have said about three hours later. Though if any of them happened to be my neighbours we might meet slowly over time, beginning with a cheery wave as we collected the milk from the doorstep (I’m already living fifty years ago), a nod when we met in the corner shop, the exchange of plant slips over the garden wall, perhaps becoming a chat from one porch to the next and eventually (oh bliss) when sufficient hentilagets of ease and comfort have been gathered, I might venture to say “I’ve a cake coming out of the oven soon, would you care to join me for a cup of tea?”

Expand full comment

Portuguese writer António Lobo Antunes, and Kafka.

I will love to meet these writers, specially in a meeting with the 2 together

Expand full comment

Jane Austen, Giacomo Leopardi, Beatrix Potter, Selma Lagerlöf, Gianni Rodari, Italo Calvino, Ursula K. Le Guin.

(sorry, can't choose just one!)

Expand full comment

Leopardi and Calvino, great!

Expand full comment

Robert Frost or John Steinbeck. I love them already!

Expand full comment

I know that Jane Austen would hate me! But I think Mary Stewart would like me, so I'd sit down with her for a cup of tea and a chat.

Expand full comment

Definitely CS Lewis. His books just feel like a warm hug, even his academic lectures. People who knew him said they felt like they were the most important person in the world when talking with him. I love Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, but I don’t know if we’d get along all that well😂

Expand full comment

Paul Bowles. Apart from being a writer he was also a composer and traveler. I love North African music and he also recorded some in Morocco. Travel writers are fun. Stevan Pesic maybe?

Expand full comment

Can't say for sure because he was so acerbic and difficult, but I'd like to say Schopenhauer.

Expand full comment

Thomas Hardy, if we could go on a country walk together and neither of us spoke too much. That might work. Generally, I don't find the famous writers I admire to be very sympathetic as people, at least by reputation. Though I've met some charming writers, Michele Roberts and Ian Rankin among them. I'd be curious to meet Karen Russell. I'm a huge fan of her work. But I suspect we'd have little in common.

Expand full comment

Margaret Atwood. But, I would be so intimidated, I don't think that would happen.

Expand full comment
author

You could tag her in notes to get the conversation started

Expand full comment

I’m commenting on her posts for now, but yes, good idea. I’ll start stalking, I mean, tagging her in the coming weeks. Once I get my nerve up.

Expand full comment

Of the ancients I'd go with Heraclitus, Diogenes, and Cicero. While Heraclitus would probably go off on hours long conversational tangents that may get a little repetitive as he stares into nature, Diogenes would be constantly cracking jokes and being irreverent to lighten the mood, great to have a beer with. I imagine Cicero would be quite gloomy and willing to wrestle in the weeds of philosophy and politics.

Of more recent writers I'd have to say Carlyle, though I'd probably annoy him and he'd rant and rant and rant without taking a breath. Significant lengths of time with Lovecraft would probably get quite blackpilled, though I can be pretty pessimistic too (even though I am generally hopeful for personal and familial life).

On the gentler side would be Simone Weil where we'd have long drawn out discussions of faith and meta-politics with plenty of thoughtful pauses sipping coffee.

Very hard to stop listing names.

Expand full comment

Diogenes - YES!😂

Expand full comment

I’d like to say Oscar Wilde, but I don’t think that I could keep up with him in conversation.

Expand full comment
author

Could anyone?

Expand full comment

Maybe no one except Dorothy Parker. Now *that* would be a dinner party.

Expand full comment

I actually badly want to be friends with Robert Macfarlane, and I made some feeble attempts at getting in touch with him while in Cambridge, but got the impression that he simply does not have time. I think he would be very lovely to whoever he meets if he did have the time, but he's friends with so many fascinating people that I doubt I would make the cut...

Also on my list of authors I would like to be friends with (with varying degrees of confidence about how it would actually turn out): George Eliot, Annie Dillard, Ursula K. LeGuin, Barbara Kingsolver, Mary Oliver, Beverly Cleary...

Expand full comment

TS Eliot, when he's not in his anti-semetic mode, Britten, Emerson, Aurelius, Machiavelli, Jung, CS Lewis, Iris Chang, DFW, Oppenheimer, Kimura, Rawls, some I knew before they were gone as well because they are missed.

Expand full comment

At the moment I'd most like to meet H. Gareth Gavin, who's written my favourite novel in many years, the very strange and very brilliant Never Was, shortlisted for this year's Goldsmith's Prize. I'd like to discover if he is in fact human, and if so, how hard he has to work at it.

Expand full comment

Pat Conroy, Bill Bryson, or this dude named Mikey Rothwell.

Expand full comment
author

Good, good, awful

Expand full comment

Tom Robbins for the win.

Expand full comment
author

I initially read this as Tony Robbins and I must admit I was quite confused 😂

Expand full comment

Even Tom Robbins can be confusing, so it’s an honest mistake. Have you read his Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates? He thought he was writing a novel, but he actually channeled my life story.

Expand full comment
author

I haven’t no, but will look it up

Expand full comment

Warning: you will never think about green jungle parots in the same way again.

Expand full comment

I actually keep a "friends shelf" (actually there are two now) stacked with books that are friends, but as I look over at that area I'd say Laurie Colwin could have been great friends. She had such a dreamy view of New York as evidenced in her novels, and insight into human relations that I found compelling and comforting.

Expand full comment

I'll go with James Lee Burke. We're from the same neck of the woods. : )

Expand full comment

there's a writer here on substack called mikey, he writes shit notes and loves maps, he writes good and detailed descriptions of places that people can only dream off and also invites others to talk about books that had an influence on ones life, i think he'll be my choice, great craic

Expand full comment
author

It's interesting you say that actually because I hear he can be really quite annoying

Expand full comment

who's perfect?

Expand full comment

Christopher Morley. His biography was titled "Three Hours For Lunch".

Expand full comment
author

An idea we can all get behind, I think

Expand full comment

Some authors were known to have many friends and be good friends, others were loners, or difficult, or prone to fights and squabbles. Ones I like in the first category include H.P. Lovecraft and J.R.R. Tolkien. Writers I like who were probably difficult to get to know but were kind and loyal to their friends include George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh, Robert A. Heinlein, Joseph Conrad and Stefan Zweig. Writers I like who were loners or obnoxious or full of themselves include Norman Mailer and V.S. Naipaul. Bruce Chatwin was a great writer, but seems to have been a flake in person. Still, I would like to have met all of them.

Expand full comment
author

Would love to be on a long train ride with Chatwin. Can imagine him getting all wistful and telling the best stories while looking out the window.

Expand full comment

I’m there with you on Conrad, Naipaul, and Waugh, especially Waugh because I’m sure he would say something completely crosswise with today’s sensitivities.

Expand full comment
Oct 23, 2023·edited Oct 23, 2023Liked by M. E. Rothwell

There is an interview with Waugh late in his life where the interviewer is intentionally insulting and contemptuous. One part of the conversation went something like this:

I: Do you support the death penalty?

EW: For an enormous number of offenses!

I: Would you hang them yourself?

EW: Are you asking me if I would do the hangman's work?

I: Yes.

EW: It seems a strange task for a novelist.

I: Would you?

EW: Yes.

Expand full comment

Smiling, no doubt, as he pulled the trap door lever upon which the hooded interviewer stood!

Would they allow Black Mischief to be published today? If not, he should hang them, too.

Expand full comment

Also, Waugh is one of two writers who visited Orwell while he was dying, the other being Malcolm Muggeridge. Waugh could be obnoxious, but he was a decent man under all that posturing.

Expand full comment

I think I could listen to Naipaul for hours. I once did a comparison on the entries from his journal when he traveled from Kinshasa to Kisangani with his descriptions of places he included in A Bend in the River. Some passages in the book were almost word for word from the journal and it was a fascinating insight into a writer’s process of creation.

Expand full comment

For me, it would be Stephen King.

Expand full comment

Not one. But the women! Simone de Beauvoir, Doris Lessing, Virginia Wolff - and of course the great Canadian women writers: Alice Munro, Margaret Lawrence, Margaret Atwood and on and on. These women center me, and keep me alive as a person and a woman.

Expand full comment

Mary Oliver, Sue Hubbell and I'm gonna be very bold and say Hemingway in his early Paris phase.

Expand full comment

Stephen King, Irvine Welsh or Angela Carter.

Expand full comment

Douglas Adams, Frank Herbert, R. R. Martin. No comment needed. 😜 Plus, it was surprisingly easy to pick them!

Expand full comment

Albert Camus. He could help me "imagine Sisyphus happy"!

Expand full comment

We are meeting Tanya Shadrick for the first time in real life next month. We are certain we’ll be firm friends. We adore Sara Winman (Still Life, Tin Man) and we’re lucky to have met her. I think we’d get on very well with Ian Rankin, quiet pint in Edinburgh and all that.

Expand full comment

ALEX DOBRENKO no I'm kidding, we'd die with our hands locked around each other's throats. I love that guy.

I'd very much hope I'd get along with the late Ursula Le Guin, but I fear she'd have very little patience for me, and quite right too. So I'd sit there in awe, until she chased me out with a broom.

Expand full comment
author

That’s just reminded me of the story of Boswell visiting Rousseau, then the most famous intellectual in Europe, unannounced. Rousseau didn’t really like guests and Boswell was irritating at the best of times - on the first visit he followed the philosopher into his chamber pot while still chattering on. Somehow he got invited back a few more times after that and took advantage of this by having an affair with Rousseau’s housekeeper.

Expand full comment

Easy: Anton Myrer

Expand full comment

The journalist and columnist Harry Pearson, as few other writers has captured the humour of life in the North East of England with such consummate skill.

His debut book 'The Far Corner' is widely regarded as one of the best football books written (it's undoubtedly one of the two funniest), and its sequel 'The Farther Corner' also received much acclaim (it's the other of the two funniest).

Harry doesn't just write about football as amongst his other books are; on travel, 'A Tall Man in a Low Land', cricket 'Slipless in Settle' and cycling, 'The Beast, the Emperor and the Milkman' along with several others.

And as Harry now only lives a couple of miles down the road, we might well bump into each other one day on the bus or on the train on the way to a match.

Expand full comment

I think the late Father Andrew M. Greeley and I would have been great friends. In addition to being a best-selling fiction writer whose characters and novels I loved, he was a sociologist, nonfiction writer, and Roman Catholic priest. He supported women’s ordination (I’m a nonfiction writer and a former Lutheran pastor) and expressed other progressive views that angered conservatives.

Expand full comment
Oct 23, 2023Liked by M. E. Rothwell

Johannes Bobrowski, who was an East German poet, Arnold Bennett because I think he was a nice person, and Dorothy Parker, because I would admire her wit.

Expand full comment

I didn't miss my book piece coming out did I? Suddenly remembered it was in your queue! 🙏🏻

Expand full comment
author

No not yet! Off the top of my head I think it’s scheduled for a Thursday in Jan. I’ll be emailing you beforehand so it won’t come as a surprise!

Expand full comment

Wow you DID have a long backlog! Great - no hurry - good to know it's in the works.

Expand full comment

I used to email back and forth with Steven Pressfield, and he was always gracious and friendly. Ken Follet also seems very kind and generous to his fans. As far as dead authors, I've always felt I'd get along well with the likes of C.S. Lewis and David Gemmell.

Expand full comment
author

A good friend of mine is related to Ken Follet and I’m afraid to say I’ve heard some ummm things that didn’t reflect too well 😬

Expand full comment

Oof, that's disappointing :(

Expand full comment

Thanks Mikey for sharing the love. I would like to invite you for dinner if you are in the area soon. Then we can see who else we can scare up!

Expand full comment
author

Ah I’m actually back in the UK for a bit right now, but will let you know if I make it down to Gascony sometime soon!

Expand full comment