Friday 28th February 2020
Q1) The first book you ever loved
Consciously as a kid, George Furnell, Left Hand Wood. In adolescence, the Lord of the Rings trilogy (did my SYS dissertation on The Silmarillion!), even although I generally dislike fantasy of the ‘invented world’ kind (I also dislike most science fiction); I think I read the Tolkien stuff in line with other things in my pronounced Anglophilia. As a sixteen year-old, Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory & T.S. Eliot’s Selected Poetry.
Q2) The book I have read more than any other
Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (10 times in 33 years: 9 for academic purposes!).
Q3) A book that you despise
Hitler, Mein Kampf. The seemingly apocryphal story, although I’ve been told not, is that when the Luftwaffe bombed my hometown of Clydebank during the Blitz this was the only book damaged in the town’s central library (I want to believe). I want not to despise any books, but they can be evil on occasion.
Q4) A book full of beautiful writing
Perhaps a seemingly strange choice but within the full ambit of beautiful/brilliant writing: Joyce’s Ulysses, I was obsessed with this book from the age of 20-23; only Shakespeare in the English language had a greater facility.
Q5) The book you've been meaning to read for years, but haven't
The Decameron (one of a number of gaps in my canonical European reading).
Q6) The book you're reading currently
A children’s book, Siobhan Dowd, The London Eye Mystery (as I came late to and recently finished her very fine, The Bog Child). Also Johnny Rogan, Byrds Requiem for the timeless (which it has taken me too long to get round to). Also re-reading Alan Sharp’s A Green Tree in Gedde as I am co-editing (with Colin McIlroy of the National Library) a new edition for publication in 2022. I have also been working my way for some time, including now, through the Le Carre oeuvre (I am a late convert).
Q7) Your favourite short story
For sheer, unadulterated pleasure, Oscar Wilde, The Canterville Ghost. Also, I’ve admired none more than Joyce’s The Dead. More generally, I love numerous short stories by Bernard MacLaverty, Muriel Spark, James Kelman and Raymond Carver.
Q8) Your all-time favourite novel
I have enjoyed nothing more than Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy (much better than Brideshead Revisited). Although, a close-run thing alongside Joyce’s Ulysses, Anna Karenina and Moby Dick. ●