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Episode 17: Margaret Drabble: A Writer’s Life

Dame Margaret Drabble joins us at the Slightly Foxed table as we celebrate her life in writing. From taking up her pen in the 1960s as a young mother alone in her kitchen to feeling part of a movement with Nell Dunn, Margaret Forster and Edna O’Brien, to editing The Oxford Companion to English Literature without the help of a computer and eschewing the Booker Prize, Margaret Drabble sees writing as both an illness and a trade, finding black humour in ageing and joy in jigsaw puzzles along the way. And we uncover whatever happened to the elusive novelist Elizabeth Jenkins in this month’s reading from the magazine’s archives.

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Show Notes

Please find links to books, articles, and further reading listed below. The digits in brackets following each listing refer to the minute and second they are mentioned. (Episode duration: 44 minutes; 23 seconds)

Books Mentioned

We may be able to get hold of second-hand copies of the out-of-print titles listed below. Please get in touch with Anna in the Slightly Foxed office for more information.

Margaret Drabble Books Mentioned

Out of print

– A Summer Bird-Cage (5:41)

– Arnold Bennett: A Biography (8:58)

– Angus Wilson: A Biography (9:54)

– The Oxford Companion to English Literature, (ed.) Fifth & Sixth editions (11:13)

– The Radiant Way (15:20)

– A Natural Curiosity (15:20)

In print

– The Millstone (14:10)

– The Needle’s Eye (17:37)

– The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws NB Published 7 May 2020 (21:35)

– The Dark Flood Rises (36:48)

Other Books

Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, Angus Wilson is out of print (10:28)

– The Tortoise and the Hare and Harriet, Elizabeth Jenkins (28:17)

– The Custom of the Country, Edith Wharton (39:08)

– The Unwomanly Face of War, Svetlana Alexievich (40:26)

– To War with Whitaker, Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly: Slightly Foxed Edition No. 50 (41:55)

Related Slightly Foxed Articles

Whatever Happened to Elizabeth Jenkins?, Nigel Andrew on the novels of Elizabeth Jenkins in Issue 60 (28:17)

– Joyce to the Life, Margaret Drabble on Richard Ellman, James Joyce in Issue 49

– Trollope’s Ireland, Margaret Drabble on the Irish novels of Anthony Trollope in Issue 59

Opening music: Preludio from Violin Partita No.3 in E Major by Bach
The Slightly Foxed Podcast is hosted by Philippa Lamb and produced by Podcastable

Comments & Reviews

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  1. Julie, via Instagram says:

    With all routines gone topsy turvy here in the States, I had forgotten today was a podcast day! The podcast is my favorite programme in the car while doing school runs, but since we are all stuck at home it will be lovely to listen while starting the first of what could be many jigsaw puzzles.

  2. Margaret Minière says:

    Thank you so much for your wonderful podcasts. I love Margaret Drabble’s attitude and writing.
    Slightly Foxed is generously cheering us up. Stay safe. Margaret

  3. Pauline Beaton says:

    I am relatively new to Slightly Foxed but can honestly say it is the best discovery I have made for many, many years. My daughter has bought me a year’s subscription to the quarterly magazine but because I live in a very isolated place in Kenya it is being sent to another daughter in London until I can get to England and collect them, but I know I am going to enjoy them. In the meantime I am just loving your podcasts, and have particularly enjoyed this one with Margaret Drabble, she does sound lovely!

    Thank you so much for the books, the quarterly and the podcasts. Kind regards to you all, Pauline

  4. Diane says:

    Someone suggested that I listen to the Slightly Foxed podcast featuring Margaret Drabble and I have to say that I loved it! Thank you also for introducing me to Elizabeth Jenkins. I have just finished reading The Tortoise and the Hare and thoroughly enjoyed it and have added Harriet to my must-read list. Thank you for providing an engaging, thought-provoking podcast, a real tonic in these Coronavirus times!

  5. Tammy Cullers says:

    Hello, all, I am a middle school teacher who lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia (USA). Right now, we are all adjusting to teaching, grading, and communicating with our students online. Times are turbulent, and I find your podcasts a soothing balm. I listen as I grade electronic essays, and your words are calming. The lovely British accents and soft tones help me put my world in order again. Thank you.

  6. Ainee Beland says:

    I simply wish to say thank you for these lovely podcasts; I enjoy listening to them while doing house chores; while ironing, cooking and other domestic chores. They are worth their weights an awful lot. I am happy to be able to download them to my phone and listen to them at my leisure; thank you to all at Slightly Fox from Leominster.

  7. Ainee C. Beland says:

    Hello to all at Slightly Foxed; I can’t comment/give praise enough on your podcasts; of how much I enjoy them. I’ve completed reading Ms Drabble’s e-book title, The Witch of Exmoor which was an enjoyable book; the ending with the envoi took me for a loop as I did not expect it to be wrapped up so neatly as those departed by suicide or clumsiness retell of their journey while on ship bound for the heavens one can imagine. I thoroughly enjoyed the main character Freida Haxby Palmer. I once knew a Freida ; I did not know much about at her (hardly anything at all) but her name, and as a person that would say hello to me when we’d meet up. Anyhow, reading of Freida became real for me as if of that Freida I knew long ago. I am a slow reader, yet I can finish a book if given the time. Thank you for sharing Ms Drabble with me; I too am surrounded by ghosts as she were on her final night at Ashcombe’s Exmoor. Thank you!

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