Dinner and Conversation with Philip Hoare

For our first meeting back after the holidays, we met at Duke of Wellington pub, where we had dinner and sat down with Visiting Fellow, Philip Hoare. Philip is author of books such as The Sea Inside and Leviathan, as well as many articles for The Guardian. We discussed our own projects and general maritime conversation.

Philip mentioned different aspects of his own work. For example, the biography on Netley Hospital (Spike Island: Memory of a Military Hospital) that he wrote towards the beginning of his career was how he started inserting himself into the narrative, as a way of giving the book ‘bones’. Netley Hospital, we learned was a military hospital primarily used during World War I, and is the focus of controversy. Philip put himself into the narrative because there were only 11 surviving records on the building and so much of his biography came from first- and second-hand accounts.

Philip also mentioned that one of the bigger influences on the type of literature he writes has been The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald. Amazon describes the book as: “The Rings of Saturn begins as the record of a journey on foot through coastal East Anglia. From Lowestoft to Bungay, Sebald’s own story becomes the conductor of evocations of people and cultures past and present: of Chateaubriand, Thomas Browne, Swinburne and Conrad, of fishing fleets, skulls and silkworms. The result is an intricately patterned and haunting book on the transience of all things human.” Philip described Sebald as the ‘grandfather of
psycho-geography’.

Naturally, since Leviathan we were discussing Leviathan, conversation turned to Moby Dick and whales in general. Philip mentioned he was a part of a project called ‘Moby Dick Big Read’ that encouraged people to read the book by having famous and not-so-famous people read a chapter and give their interpretations of
that chapter.

As an exciting bonus, the first copy of the paperback edition of The Sea Inside had arrived at Philip’s house that day. Not only did we get to flip through the copy, but he did a drawing and Peter was the lucky recipient of it!

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