LR: Tell us where we can find your favourite bookshelf? What do you love the most about it?
VV: My favourite bookshelf is in my room in Exeter. Actually, it’s not one single bookshelf but it’s three shelves one next to the other. When I moved in last September I had four big boxes of books and I had no idea where and how I could organise them as the room only had one little shelf. I ended up buying five shelves to tidy up the books. I tend to be a messy person, so I decided to organise them in alphabetical order under five main categories: fiction, non fiction, dictionaries, poetry and foreign literature. It works well for now. The three shelves that form a bigger one contain mainly fiction, non fiction and some poetry. What I love the most about it? The fact that every book in it has a meaning for me and that I kind of built it up slowly.
LR: Do you have a prevailing genre of books in your book collection or is it more of an eclectic mix?
VV: I think it’s more like a mix of books, from Shakespeare to fashion guides and drawing manuals, poetry collections, art books, graphic novels. There is a bit of all my passions and I like its variety. My favourites remain poetry and art books, especially illustrated poetry books, which are the hardest to find.
LR: What is the most treasured book in your bookshelf?
VV: The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara. I have no doubts about it. It took me ages to find a copy on sale and I can still remember the moment I received it by post. The book itself looks pretty normal, a thick black book with a yellow picture of the New York poet. If there is a fire drill I take it with me, just in case there is a real fire. He is one of my favourite poets, and he also had such an interesting life.
LR: Where is your favourite place to read in Exeter?
VV: I love reading in my room, just lying in bed surrounded by big pillows. It’s funny, but I imagine I’m sitting between clouds of duvets and sheets, and it makes me very relaxed. I remember I have been doing it since I was very little and I used to listen to the tapes of the ‘Fiabe Sonore’ (fairy tales read out loud), wrapped up in the top bunk of my bed. It’s my way to take a break from the world and find a cozy and fluffy shelter. Although, I also have to mention the Quay. There is nothing better than sitting on one of the benches of the Quay (one of those on the other side of the bridge if you come from the High Street) and read short stories. Late afternoons are quiet and perfect to enjoy a good book.
LR: What are your top five books of all time?
VV: 1. Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time
2. Jean Rhys, Good Morning, Midnight
3. Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller
4. Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire
5. Eugenio Montale, The Collected Poems
LR: Who is your favourite literary character and why?
VV: Odysseus, as he is described both by Homer and by Dante. He is the wanderer, fighting against many obstacles, always trying to pursue his mission of coming home. I love Dante’s description of his speech to his shipmates, in which he describes the thirst for knowledge as the very essence of being humans. ‘You were not made to live as mindless brutes, but go in search of virtue and true knowledge’.
LR: What are you currently reading?
VV: I like reading more than one book at the same time, usually one of fiction, one of non fiction and a poetry book. In this way, if I don’t feel like reading a novel, I can read something else depending on my mood. At the moment I am reading The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, Quantum by Jim Al-Khalili and Emporium by Ian Pindar.
LR: If you could have coffee with any writer who would you choose and why?
VV: Italo Calvino. I think he has been the last great Italian writer and I would like to ask him what he thinks about the future of Italian literature. Also, a couple of tips on creative writing…
LR: Which book has had the biggest impact on your life?
VV: This is a tricky question because I feel I have been highly influenced by many books, and it’s not easy to narrow down the answer to only one book. At the moment, I would answer Seven Short Physics Lessons by Carlo Rovelli. It consists of seven short chapters explaining some key concepts of modern physics in a very simple way. After all the novels and plays I read in my second year, I really enjoyed his straightforward and precise style. Rovelli’s words rekindled my love for science, which I had abandoned for a couple of years.
LR: Poetry or Prose?
LR: Tea or Coffee?
LR: Fiction or Non Fiction?
VV: Non Fiction.
LR: Arena or Mosaic?
VV: Isn’t there a third option? Like The Glorious Art House?