Friday 14th February 2020
Q1) The first book you ever loved
It’ll have to be a Roald Dahl book. I don’t really remember the first books I must’ve read to learn how to read, but I do remember reading pretty much everything Roald Dahl wrote for children when I was wee. I loved the Charlie books, The Witches and his memoirs Boy and Going Solo, but I loved The BFG most of all, and was quite comforted by the idea of him stoating about the streets at night blowing dreams through his trumpet. I liked his daft words too, snozzcumbers and whizzpoppers. And who doesn’t love a fart joke at that age?!
Q2) Your all-time favourite novel
If I’m made to pick one favourite, I go for Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I’ve read it in my teens, twenties and thirties, and get something more out of it each time and yet still enjoy what I got out of it in previous readings. I have a bit of a love for barely contained hysteria done well (all the bellows and thunders and screams in Ignatius’s dialogue in A Confederacy of Dunces, the crazy absurdities in Terry Southern’s novels, loads of Gene Wilder roles, Homer Simpson’s panic yelp. . .) and I think Catch-22 does that manic energy best of all. In a lesser writer, that energy could easily become too wild and uncontrolled but Heller knows exactly what he’s doing in representing the random, chaotic, ugly, illogical world his characters find themselves in. I love its structure, the call backs, its anger, its moments of victory, every single one of the characters – even when they’re being utter arseholes. Oh, I’m due a re-read!
Q3) The book that gets you through hard times
If I’m feeling fragile, I prefer books that are not too dark or introspective – I’ll read those when I’m feeling more robust! But for simple good vibes, I’d recommend something like Walter Moers or Elizabeth Von Arnim’s The Enchanted April. Though if I’m just feeling a bit fed up and rutty, there’s something quite bracing about reading the rage in Jean Rhys’s Good Morning, Midnight or Elizabeth Taylor’s Angel.
Q4) The book that most disappointed you
Loads of books have disappointed me, though I’m pretty good at putting books aside that aren’t doing it for me and not feeling guilty about it, so disappointed seems like too big an adjective for how I feel about it. The next book you read might just be the corker you need, so why persevere? I quickly forget a book/song/meal/whatever that doesnae get me going – a good ‘un comes along soon enough! But for the books I do put aside, it might just be a timing thing rather than the book and I’m happy to acknowledge that.
Q5) Next on your to-read pile is ...
I’m in a very mid-twentieth-century frame of mind just now, so I’m looking forward to cracking on with Tastes of Honey: The Making of Shelagh Delaney and a Cultural Revolution by Selina Todd after I finish Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman. My work colleagues have been evangelising about the His Dark Materials trilogy to me, so I’m giving it a whirl and it is rattling along quite nicely! I’ve also got Deborah Orr’s Motherwell lined up to listen to on audiobook.
Q6) Your favourite short story
I don’t read enough short stories. Each year I make a resolution to start each day off with one and never do it because I’m rubbish at getting up in the morning! But out of my short story reading so far, I’d go for David Sedaris for laughs, especially You Can’t Kill the Rooster, which I remember howling at, and for conveying so much horror, love and dignity in such a short space, James Kelman’s Acid. I think about that story regularly.
Q7) A book full of beautiful writing
There are all kinds of beauty in books, so every book I’ve spoken about so far could fit the bill, but I’ll highlight The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. Just as with Kelman’s Acid, I find myself regularly thinking about Mick Kelly wandering the night-time streets, listening out for music.
Q8) The book you’ve been meaning to read for years, but haven’t
There are so many! My shelves are full of ‘em. But the novel which I tell myself I’ll read this year at the start of the year every year for the last few years and I’ve still not read it, is Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman. I have a very lovely edition too and catch myself looking at it many a time . . . Maybe this year is the year! ●
Vikki is the Marketing, Events & Trade Liaison Manager at Publishing Scotland, the trade and network body for Scottish publishing. She has worked for nearly 20 years the book industry, first as a bookseller, then in the sales and marketing departments of Mainstream Publishing, Mercat Press and Birlinn Ltd, where she was also a member of the editorial board.
In September 2020 she will publish her first book, The Beatles 101: A Pocket Guide in 101 Moments, Songs, People and Places.
t: @bookyvikki, @scottishbooks