I am a profound pessimist both about life and about human relations and about politics and ecology. Humans are inadequate and stupid creatures who sooner or later make a mess and those who are trying to do good do a lot more damage than those who are muddling along.

Biographies are no longer written to explain or explore the greatness of the great. They redress balances explore secret weaknesses demolish legends.

I watch a lot of sport on television. I only watch certain sports and I only watch them live – I dont think Ive ever been able to watch a replay of a match or game of which the result was already decided. I feel bound to cheat and look up what can be looked up.

In novels in general – and also on the television – we do live in a world where bodies is what we are. We do not talk about the spirit or the soul and there is a sense that we no longer talk about beliefs either Freudian or Marxist.

I dont understand why in my work writing is always so dangerous. Its very destructive. People who write books are destroyers.

I did a lot of my writing as though I was an academic doing some piece of research as perfectly as possible.

In my minds eye Shakespeare is a huge hot sea-beast with fire in his veins and ice on his claws and inscrutable eyes who looks like an inchoate hump under the encrustations of live barnacle-commentaries limpets and trailing weeds.

Reading a newspaper is like reading someones letters as opposed to a biography or a history. The writer really does not know what will happen. A novelist needs to feel what that is like.

For a long time I felt instinctively irritated – sometimes repelled – by scientific friends automatic use of the word mechanism for automatic bodily processes. A machine was man-made it was not a sentient being a man was not a machine.

On buses and trains I always think about the inexhaustible variety of human genes. We see types and occasionally twins but never doubles. All faces are unique and this is exhilarating despite the increasingly plastic similarity of TV stars and actors.

You learn a lot about love before you ever get there. You learn at least as much about love from books as you do from watching your parents.

If a novelist tells you something she knows or thinks and you believe her that is not because either of you think she is God but because she is doing her work – as a novelist.

I acquired a hunger for fairy tales in the dark days of blackout and blitz in the Second World War.

What I need to write well is a combination of heat light and solitude.

As a little girl I didnt like stories about little girls. I liked stories about dragons and beasts and princes and princesses and fear and terror and the Four Musketeers and almost anything other than nice little girls making moral decisions about whether to tell the teacher about what the other little girl did or did not do.

Im more interested in books than people and I always expect everybody else to be but theyre not.

Books that change you even later in life give you a kind of electrical shock as the world takes a different shape.

I think the virtue I prize above all others is curiosity. If you look really hard at almost anybody and try to see why theyre doing what theyre doing taking a dig at them ceases to be what you want to do even if you hate them.

You can understand a lot about yourself by working out which fairytale you use to present your world to yourself in.

The point of painting is not really deception or imitation.

I dont like gurus. I dont like people who ask you to follow or believe. I like people who ask you to think independently.

We talk about feelings. And about sex. And about bodies and their gratification violation repair decoration deferred mortality. Feelings are a bodily thing and respecting them is called is

I grew up with that completely fictive idea of motherhood where the mother never strayed from the kitchen. All the women in my books are very afraid that if they do anything with their minds they wont be complete women. I dont think my daughters generation has that feeling.

There are things I take sides about like capital punishment which it seems to me there is only one side about: it is evil. But there are two or three sides to sexual harassment and the moment you get into particular cases there is injustice in every conceivable direction. Its a mess.

I think vestigially theres a synesthete in me but not like a real one who immediately knows what colour Wednesday is.

If you want to teach women to be great writers you should show them the best and the best was often done by men. It was more often done by men than by women if were going to be truthful.