ARTicle Magazine

This reading life: Pip Adam

14 July 2017

By her books we will know author, Pip Adam. 

Pip Adam

Photo by Victoria Birkinshaw

Pip's latest book is The New Animals (VUP).

The first book to capture my imagination was ...

MISTER DOG, by Margaret Wise Brown. I was obsessed with this funny dog who belonged to himself. I wanted to belong to myself. I wanted a two-storey dog house. I wanted to be Pip’s Pip. I hated being told what to do. The dog meets a boy who belongs to himself and they become flatmates. I couldn’t wait to be a flatmate. One line in the book which has always thrown me is ‘Crispin’s Crispian was a conservative. He liked everything at the right time.’ I always had trouble understanding why someone with all this freedom would want everything in its place. I guess some people should not belong to themselves.


The books and/or other writing that saw me through childhood were ...

​I recently wrote this for The Sapling about my interest in Disneyland Comics. I really liked television. I wasn’t much of a reader so when I read it was often comics or magazines: MAD magazine and Asterix and Tintin. There were also a few books without too many words that I liked; one that stands out was The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak – I read that over and over, like it was a new magazine each time.

The character in a book I most wanted to be as a child was ...

​My mother says as a small child I always pretended to be Eddie from the TV show The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, which it turns out is quite a dodgy show from what I can tell. For years I wanted to be people from TV. I wanted to be George from Famous Five for a while. I didn’t realise that was a book. When I was about 11 or 12, I read The Outsiders and all I wanted to be was Ponyboy Curtis. I got my mum and grandmother to take the sleeves off all my sweatshirts and I scowled in disgust at the rich kids.

The Outsiders

The book I studied at school that has stayed with me most is ...

​This is awful but I can’t remember a single book we ‘studied’. I went to school during the time when English was a lot about creative writing and responding to works of literature rather than ‘studying books’. I do remember the short story Hooks and Feelers by Keri Hulme. I remember how shocking it was and how clever and how the people spoke like New Zealanders.

The author I am most likely to binge-read is ...

I really like the way A. A. Milne sounds in my head. I often read Winnie the Pooh out loud in a very bingey kind of way.

AA Milne

The book I am most likely to press on a friend is ...

I am terrified of recommending books. So I tend to give a huge enthused rant about why someone should read something which I finish up with, ‘But you know – you might not like it.’ Probably The Golden Notebook though, to be honest. Or Janet Frames Intensive Care.

The book I most wish someone would write is ...

I saw Rodney Bell and Duncan Armstrong perform recently. I would like that book. Not a book about them or dance but a book that makes that same noise inside me.

The book I keep meaning to get around to reading but somehow never do is ...

Anna Karenina - so embarrassed, I put in my diary for summer every year and every year in Autumn I think, ‘Pants!’

Leo Tolstoy

The book I have reread the most is ...

I tend not to ‘return’ to authors. Often I’ll read everything by them and then not return. One thing I do return to a lot are single short stories. Every now and then I re-read Margo Lanagan’s Singing My Sister Down. Just to remind me what the short story can do and just to terrify myself again so I can’t sleep. I also read Sea Oak by George Saunders at least once a year – it’s kind of a compass on my empathy.

 The newspapers, magazines and blogs I can't do without are ...

I’m a bit obsessed with The Washington Post – I’ve read quite a bit of Janet Malcolm this year and I’ve become really interested in the ‘form’ of journalism. The rhetoric. Washington Post is so great at ‘objective’ writing that feels controlled by an over-seeing editor and a group of journalists that correct opinion. I love it as a stylistic game but also it gives me such hope.

If I were stranded on a desert island and could have only one book with me, it would be ...

The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by José Saramago. I have no idea how that book did to me what it did and I would love time to dissect it and see just how it was done. It is such a great book.

The Gospel according to Jesus Christ

Bookmark, scrap of paper or turning down the corner of the page?

Usually a postcard from a friend. Hate if I have to turn down a corner.

The first 50 pages or bust? Or always to the bitter end?

I want to be a ‘bitter end’ person but I am so unfaithful sometimes I find books months later I forgot I was reading.

The book I am always on the lookout for in second hand shops is ...

Anything by Ronald Hugh Morrieson and Wednesdays’ Children by Robin Hyde.

Wednesday's Children

My favourite cinematic adaptation of a book is ...

Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution.

The character in a book I'd most like to meet is ...

Hal Incandenza from Infinite Jest. I used to always say Pemulis, but the longer David Foster Wallace is gone I want the heart more and the cool less.

Infinite Jest

A line of writing I can recite from memory is ...

I am well known for mangling quotes. But of late I’ve had, ‘One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin.’  We read The Metamorphosis a lot in prison workshops and we dissect this first line, the way it sets the whole work in play. So I think about it a lot. Also, that weird, controversial word ‘vermin’.


The Metamorphosis a

My favourite 19th-century book is ...

Argh! Too many. Today because I recently read Wide Sargasso Sea,  it’s Jane Eyre.

My favourite 20th-century book is ...

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers – today. Yesterday it would have been The Golden Notebook.


My favourite contemporary writers are ...

There is some amazing writing being done in the prisons in New Zealand.

 The book/s currently by the side of my bed is/are ..

Our Future is in Air by Tim Corballis, and The Ski-Flier by Maria McMillan (I can’t stop reading this).

Our Future is in the Air