I learned the hard way that Fay Weldon was as sharp-witted as her characters
I jumped at the chance to interview her, but regretted it almost at once after being reminded of a bad review I wrote
When I heard that Fay Weldon had died, I thought of those great early-ish novels, Praxis and Puffball, and of how much I enjoyed them as a teenager. Looking at my old Coronet paperbacks, I see something I didn’t recognise at the time: her stylistic innovation. Both are written in shards, brief paragraphs that float apart from one another in white space – the same technique now used by (among other writers) the very modish Jenny Offill.
Twenty years ago, I was dispatched to interview Weldon at home in Hampstead, north London. Her then husband, Nick, answered the door and immediately began a brutal interrogation. My name sounded familiar. Hadn’t I given Fay’s novel The Bulgari Connection, a book controversially sponsored by the Italian jeweller, a stinking review? Uh oh. But I wasn’t about to confess: I had a job to do. Was it definitely me he was thinking of? And was the review really a stinker? Maybe marital loyalty had made it seem worse than it was.