Greetings, my fellow bibliophiles!
In case you missed it, we hosted two excellent pieces here on BTMU last week:
We’re also recommending three more brilliant substacks this week:
Now onto this week’s discussion question — this was initially inspired by a question posed by
Which writer do you think you'd be great friends with if you met them in real life?
Dead or alive!
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. 😌✨
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
If I'm being honest, Janet Malcolm.
If I'm being ambitious, Henry David Thoreau.
And if I'm being suicidal, Hunter S. Thompson.
Anyone who has read my Substack would be able to guess that my answer is Borges.
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.
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.
John Green. My personal hero. Reminds me to be earnest. Reminds me it’s okay to be optimistic.
Mary Shelley and Octavia Butler - I just get a great vibe. Such iconic science fiction queens
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
Portuguese writer António Lobo Antunes, and Kafka.
I will love to meet these writers, specially in a meeting with the 2 together
Jane Austen, Giacomo Leopardi, Beatrix Potter, Selma Lagerlöf, Gianni Rodari, Italo Calvino, Ursula K. Le Guin.
(sorry, can't choose just one!)
Robert Frost or John Steinbeck. I love them already!
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.
Baudelaire (we would brood together and have little graveyard picnics with little tea sandwiches), Hunter S. Thompson (he would match and exceed my energy, and likewise I would start trying to match his so it would be a constant one-upping), Bukowski (we’d be fantastic bar mates, most likely drunkenly and elaborately insulting each other every night), Carson McCrullers (we would be devastatingly lonely, together!)
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😂
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?
Can't say for sure because he was so acerbic and difficult, but I'd like to say Schopenhauer.
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.
Margaret Atwood. But, I would be so intimidated, I don't think that would happen.
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.
I’d like to say Oscar Wilde, but I don’t think that I could keep up with him in conversation.
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...
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.
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.
Pat Conroy, Bill Bryson, or this dude named Mikey Rothwell.
Tom Robbins for the win.
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.
I'll go with James Lee Burke. We're from the same neck of the woods. : )
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
Christopher Morley. His biography was titled "Three Hours For Lunch".
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.
For me, it would be Stephen King.
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.
Mary Oliver, Sue Hubbell and I'm gonna be very bold and say Hemingway in his early Paris phase.
Stephen King, Irvine Welsh or Angela Carter.
Douglas Adams, Frank Herbert, R. R. Martin. No comment needed. 😜 Plus, it was surprisingly easy to pick them!
Albert Camus. He could help me "imagine Sisyphus happy"!
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.
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.
Easy: Anton Myrer
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.
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.
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.
I didn't miss my book piece coming out did I? Suddenly remembered it was in your queue! 🙏🏻
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.
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!