Over the past month I’ve read two astonishing new books — one by Mal Peet (Life: An Exploded Diagram) and one by Patrick Ness (A Monster Calls). Neither is out till spring, but both are unmissable.

I’ve also read the first few chapters of about twelve other books. It’s tough. Not very good books still take a few days to read, and they make me feel cross. Why is this a bestseller? Why was this published? Why did so and so send me this?

I remember in my twenties thinking that I didn’t ever want to write a book if it wasn’t going to be as good as Patrick Suskind’s Perfume or Shirley Hazzard’s Transit of Venus (my favourites at the time) — pathetic, really, and one of the main reasons I didn’t write a book until I was 47 and desperate.

So when I finally managed to get an agent, and she told me to write the best book I could write, it was both a liberation and a challenge. Try, she was saying. Stop thinking about everyone else. Just TRY.

Five books later, I’m still motivated by fear of failure and a sense of how precarious the whole business is (what if this is the last book I ever write? what if it’s awful? what if my good books are all behind me?) — like most writers, I’m insecure, nervous, competitive, driven, sometimes frustrated, sometimes depressed, frequently listless.

But really really good books just make me feel elated. So elated, that I forget to feel competitive or jealous. I wish I’d written that, I think. And that’s quite an exciting thought to have.


15 thoughts on “Jealousy

  1. raych 8 years ago

    My sister and I were just discussing the other day how you and Sharon Creech make us both jealous AND elated, because you are so very good and because we will never be you.

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      Ah, but you’ll always be Raych. Which might turn out to be better than both.

  2. Bazza 8 years ago

    Perfume is a great book and an excellent movie too. I don’t know the other one. I guess that ‘so and so’ sent you the books hoping you would blog about them!
    I can see it on the dust-jacket: ‘Unmissable’, Meg Rosoff.
    Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’
    ps: You might like the quiz question in my latest post!

  3. kokorako 8 years ago

    I love your blog for lots of reasons, but one is that it tips me off about the next great thing to read (and obviously your books are part of this to-do-what-meg-says-list). No excuse now to ever have to leave the house. Thank you! Nicola

  4. Kirsten Baron 8 years ago

    I (think I) know exactly what you mean. A few years ago, I came across a book that made me feel excited, inspired, elated because of its sheer beauty and depth of emotion. It’s the one book I wish I could have written. Especially that bit at the beginning when Charlie climbs on the windowsill and ponders the miracle of flight…

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      Thank you Kirsten. I still think of Justin as my problem child — not everyone likes him, and he gave me so much trouble. So it makes me very happy to hear this — he came from a deep dark place, and I love to hear that he (or maybe just Charlie!) connected with someone.

  5. bookwitch 8 years ago

    We all love Charlie. Sequel?

  6. Caroline Coxon 8 years ago

    Funny that. I just read two very good books – the best thing about being on holiday – precious time – which left me feeling elated and inspired and not the tiniest bit jealous.

    One was called ‘How I Live Now’ and the other was called ‘The Bride’s Farewell’ – I forget who they were by but they were SUCH good reads.

    Flying home today, full of the good intentions that pave the road to hell. I write (mostly) screenplays, for my own entertainment (!) but after my uplifting reading fest…that’s it…novels. Why didn’t I think of that before? So thank you, Meg.

    P.S. ‘The Bride’s Farewell’ helped me to survive without Alfie and Poppy, my best horse friends, who, I’m sure, are missing me about as much as Jack did Pell!

  7. Kate 8 years ago

    Mmm. My 13 year old son’s writing style has just taken a big swerve; he was inspired by two books he’d read. One was ‘Wasted’ (Nicola Morgan); the other was … ‘How I Live Now’. I know exactly how he feels because I had the same experience with my own writing after I read ‘Just in Case’. Ohhh, I thought, so that’s what they mean by finding your own voice and letting it speak … So I went and took mine out of the cupboard of caution and convention and started! Is it that the really really good books suddenly show you what’s possible and the freedom and originality with which they are written inspire you to take your own risks?

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      I think that’s it, Kate. I remember having a real epiphany along those lines when I read Ben Rice’s wonderful short novel, Pobby and Dingan.

  8. Jan Carr 8 years ago

    Hi Meg
    I’ve been enjoying your blog for a few months now, thank you.
    Also enjoying ‘How I Live Now’, particularly your/Daisy’s voice which is has sucked me well in.
    I wonder, when you find a really really good book does it matter who the author is? The book has been birthed and raised to independence (the job of a parent). It has it’s own life and when I think of those really really good books, i think of the stories, my feelings when I read them, the worlds I entered. The author is for me, not quite dead but almost irrelevant.
    But yeah, I’m human and dead jealous too.

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      Of course the author is completely irrelevant. Though it’s hard to like the book of a person you don’t like, and sometimes it’s hard to escape the voice of someone you know well. But those are exceptions. And of course to a great extent, the writer’s soul comes out in the book, so I can’t think of an example where I’ve loved a book and hated the author. Would be an awful feeling though, don’t you think?

  9. Jan Carr 8 years ago

    Hmmm not sure.
    My favourite book of all time is The Mayor of Casterbridge. This could be because I fell in love with Alan Bates in the 1978 BBC version because I can be very shallow. But I’m not sure that I would have liked Thomas Hardy that much. Maybe I’m perverse? Or maybe warm fuzzy feelings aren’t always what I’m wanting from a book?

    Thanks so much for making me think, I love a good ponder

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      Warm fuzzy feelings aren’t always what you want from a person, either. It’s a lot easier if you don’t know the writer. Eliminates the question altogether….

  10. ellie h 8 years ago

    Absolutely LOVE Patrick Ness’ books. After the absolute knockout that was Chaos Walking, I’m so pysched for A Monster Calls this may. The Chaos Walking trilogy is my all time top favourite. I absolutely love it… I can’t even put into words how good it is. Read each book 5 times, could read them another hundred and love them just as much each time.

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