Katarina West: Guest Post
My Perfect Book: A Snapshot
I’ve never thought as much about my reading preferences as now, after becoming an author and having started to answer questions about what I like to read and why, and how it has influenced my writing. And as thoroughly as I might try to reply to that question, I still can’t help feeling that the whole idea of reading preferences is a misnomer, because you’re always leaving something out, and forgetting books you love, and creating hierarchies you’ll regret later on.
Yet even if I can’t accurately tell you what my favourite books are, I definitely know what they look like. I just have to close my eyes, and they’re there, in my mind’s eyes, my absolutely perfect books.
Maybe that’s only understandable, because I live in Italy, the land of beauty, Il Bel Paese, where few things are more important than cutting a bella figura and appearances often count more than contents. So it matters here how books look, just the way it matters how bags and shoes look.
What’s more, my novel Witchcraft Couture tells a story of a fashion designer, Oscar Pellegrini, who is besotted with beauty and determined to design the most beautiful outfits that have ever existed in the history of mankind. With the help of magic he succeeds, and becomes one of the big names of Italian fashion.
Somehow I have the feeling that if Oscar were ever to read a book, it would have to be an outstandingly beautiful book. It could be, for example, an old leather-bound book, its pages thick and yellowed, and typewriter font quaintly old-fashioned. Usually it smells of mould and dust, of bygone decades, and you can just feel it, the fact that dozens of readers have touched and loved those very same pages before you. Occasionally there is a name and a year – say, Susan Fennings, 1937 – and you can’t help wondering who Susan was, and where life took her afterwards.
Or the perfect book can be a heavy hardback, untouched and pristine, and reading it is a pleasure because you know that you’re the first person to turn those pages. Also this type of book has an odour: it’s that antiseptic scent of freshly printed paper, that wonderful whiff of cleanliness and virginity. Often I feel almost intimidated to read a book so immaculate, because in my hands it will be all crumpled and stained in no time at all.
And that is why I’ve learned to love my Kindle – or why now, thinking of my favourite books, I no longer imagine print books, but my dark and sleek e-reader, containing an entire library of stories. We have come a long way together, my Kindle and I, so much so that at times I wonder whether it has almost acquired a sort of personality, and whether it, too, has reading preferences of its own.
So take it from me. Perfect books have many faces. Just like perfect stories.
Katarina West was born in Helsinki, Finland, into a bilingual family that in addition to humans consisted of dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, canaries, rabbits and – thanks to her biology teacher mother – stuffed owls and squirrels.
She spent time travelling in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and went on to study at Queen Mary and Westfield College in London and the European University Institute in Florence, where she completed a PhD in political science and published a book based on it, Agents of Altruism. During those student years she started work as a journalist, and continued writing for various Finnish magazines and newspapers for over ten years, writing on various topics from current events and humanitarian issues to celebrity interviews and short stories. She also briefly worked as a university lecturer on humanitarian issues in Northern Italy.
Katarina lives in an old farmhouse in Chianti with her husband and son and when not writing, she is fully immersed in Tuscan country life, from jam-making and olive-picking to tractor maintenance.
Find Katarina on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/WestKatarina
Find Katarina on Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/author/show/1201091.Katarina_West
Read Katarina’s blog at http://www.katarinawest.com/things_I_know_about_life
Visit Katarina’s website at http://www.katarinawest.com/
Visit the Witchcraft Couture page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Witchcraft-Couture-Katarina-West-ebook/dp/B00PW1FWGO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420042092&sr=8-1&keywords=witchcraft+couture