Category: Writing

Hay Festival 2012: Helen Simpson – ‘Blimey, you aren’t half sensitive’

Hay Festival 2012: Helen Simpson – ‘Blimey, you aren’t half sensitive’

When compiling a collection of 25 years’ worth of her short stories, Helen Simpson lighted on the ideal interviewer: Helen Simpson. A little aggressive, a touch defensive and very eloquent, the alter egos go head to head.

What was it like to read through 25 years’ worth of stories in one go?

My first reaction, which I wasn’t expecting, was: “Oh they’re good! They’re really good!” I felt extremely happy.

Huh! You would say that, wouldn’t you?

Well no, actually. I’ve kicked and berated myself for years – decades – for not being more prolific. “Lazy”, “Stupid”, “Waste of space” etc. And I was relieved to see none of that showed.

Five years per collection, though. Why so slow?

I don’t know. It’s a very wasteful way of writing, the way I do it. It’s like spending hours cooking a meal only to see it gobbled down in a few minutes. But the way I think of it is: “Reader, I save you time! I cut to the chase!”


To read the full interview please click here.

Helen Simpson on ‘In-Flight Entertainment’, The Paris Review

Helen Simpson on ‘In-Flight Entertainment’, The Paris Review

By Jonathan Gharraie

I met Helen Simpson for a genial pub lunch near Dartmouth Park in North London on the day she received the American edition of In-Flight Entertainment: Stories. She was evidently quite pleased by the book’s spare but elegant design, which looks through an airplane window onto a locket of cerulean sky. I’m tempted to draw comparisons to her stories, many of which peek at other people’s blitheness, or cruelty, or dreams of escape. But nothing in Simpson’s fiction is quite as peaceful as that glimpse of blue. She is perhaps best known for the characterization of contemporary motherhood in her collections, but many of the stories in In-Flight Entertainment confront the prospect of climate change.

Your collections are never quite themed, but they do feel very painstakingly designed. Was that true for In-Flight Entertainment?

In-Flight Entertainment is my little climate-change suite, I suppose. But there are fifteen stories in it, and only five are about climate change. My only rule is to write about what’s interesting to me at the time. It’s a great subject, but it’s very hard to dramatize or to make particular, and not to hector, not to moralize.


To read the full interview please click here.