• Eygló Karlsdóttir

The Books on my Writing Desk

As I do not write in my native tongue, nor in the language that I speak on a day-to-day basis I have strategies to help me get into the right headspace. I recently made a YouTube video touching on this but I thought I would add a bit to that in this blogpost.


The techniques I've used are basically all attempts to rehearse and ingrain English into my brain, to use the language I write in as much as I can. Currently I am working on being more comfortable talking in English, because while I can write it and often (not always, never always) spot different kind of errors, even errors in phrasing (like saying something in English, while using Swedish or Icelandic way of phrasing things), I still hiccup a lot while speaking the language. That has mainly to do with the words being a bit too far away, or that's how I like to think about it. It takes a while for the word to arrive to me, and when I'm writing I am constantly looking up words using dictionaries in the other two languages to quickly find the right word, because it's not close enough to my conscious mind, even if I know it.


Writing is like working out. You start of by running 3 kilometres. Then you suddenly find you can run 5 and surprisingly one day you find yourself running 10. Writing is similar, the more you do it the quicker you become, the better you become. And that goes for talking too, obviously, except I haven't done much talking in English. It's mostly in my head, so I need to become more adept at speaking. I hope doing Youtube videos will (amongst other things) help me with that.


But today I want to talk about one more thing I do to make sure that my writing is in English, and not in Swenglish or Engslandic - and that's the books I keep by my side when I'm writing.


Before I write I take the dog out for a walk and I think in English. Only English. When I get home I try to read a page or two in a book, always by a writer I admire. And today I added one book to that pile. So I'll show you my current pile and the new addition (which will come as no surprise for those following my twitter feed!). This pile changes constantly, I take books from the pile, add new ones by the same author, etc. But they all have something in common, in my mind at least, and that is that I can open the book almost anywhere and the prose speaks to me. It has something special, something clear and fun and beautiful.


So these are the books currently on my writing desk. (Meet Lycka, my writing partner.)


In the order I happened to put them (chance) when I took the picture.


  1. HANNAH GREEN AND HER UNFEASIBLY MUNDANE EXISTENCE by Michael Marshall Smith. This replaced ONLY FORWARD a while ago. Reading it I repeatedly had to stop and just think about that particular phrase. I guess all the books on this list have that in common.

  2. THE DOLL-MASTER AND OTHER TALES OF TERROR by Joyce Carol Oates. A relatively new arrival on my writing desk. Short fiction requires the meanings to be relaid rapidly, accurately and well, and few people do that better than Oates.

  3. AFTER DARK by Haruki Murakami. I love the start of this book, how he reels you into the city from up above, a birds view. It's a translation and I think it's very well translated by Jay Rubin.

  4. THE SLADE HOUSE by David Mitchell. Very precise language, great imagery combined with a great story.

  5. THE HELLBOUND HEART by Clive Barker. You only need to read the first phrase in this book to know it's prose gold.

  6. THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS by Stephen Graham Jones. The new arrival. There is something astoundingly good about the rhythm of his language and that gets to me. I am going to enjoy reading this one on my own, instead of having it read to me, which was also thoroughly enjoyable.

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