For many years on BBC Radio Four, Sunday mornings have been rounded off by a programme called Desert Island Discs. A celebrity is asked to imagine themselves as a castaway on an uninhabited island and to choose eight records, a book and a luxury item.
Recently this rather tired format was enlivened by Irish writer, Colm Tóibín. The author of The Master and Brooklyn demonstrated what a supreme story-teller he is with wonderful evocations of his sisters and aunts talking about buying clothes, his late Mother’s way of laying a table, and repeatedly not winning the Booker Prize. He also provided insights into the life of a creative writer (“Swimming is fun; sitting on a chair in the corner writing is not”) and why a novelist cannot spare the feelings of his grandmother.
Most of all, Tóibín’s good-natured, kind personality came across in his moving account of the Irish vote on gay marriage and his feelings on the loss of his Father. His chosen book was Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady (“I discover something new every time I read it.”) – a choice I agree with wholeheartedly.
If rights issues prevent you from hearing it on the BBC iPlayer at the link above, do head over to Apple iTunes and download the free podcast. I’m sure you’ll be as charmed as I was.
This drawing is from last year. Tóibín has a charming, not conventionally handsome but very attractive face, and this pencil sketch was drawn from a photograph in the Guardian. He is also, I’m pleased to say, a fan of New York’s Pearl Oyster Bar.