Friday 17th April 2020
Q1) The first book you ever loved
When I was wee we had a cupboard full of well-loved books at home, bulging with old Oor Wullie annuals, Ladybirds, Beatrix Potters, and Go, Dog, Go! by P. D. Eastman, which was returned to over and over again. The first novel that really had an impression on me was probably Watership Down by Richard Adams, which I read at 12 or 13. As soon as I'd read the final page I turned back to the start to read it all over again. What a beautiful novel.
Q2) The book you've read more than any other
I don't tend to re-read many books, only because my spare time is short and I always feel I should pick something new. I can safely say however that I have read The Mist by Stephen King more often than anything else. Maybe because it's a novella it works so well, in that it features all of King's positive attributes but there isn't much room for his usual flaws.
Q3) A book that you despise
Despise is a strong word. Though I kind of loathed The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, for its ponderous pathos. Its inner workings are on show, and though I'd had it recommended by a couple of friends, I really disliked it.
(On a related tangent, I despise the trope that sees a seemingly endless string of novels titled "The XXX's Daughter" or the "The XXX'x Wife". Lazy, lazy, lazy.)
Q4) A book full of beautiful writing
I want to mention The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame which is a close runner for my favourite book. A perennial favourite, and a book I registered every year. Its chapter ‘Dulce Domum’ is so crammed with lovely prose I have to brush it off my eyelids when I'm done reading.
Q5) The book you've been meaning to read for years, but haven't
This could be the answer to number 2, except I've never yet made it to the end. Joseph Conrad's Nostromo intrigues me but after I think four attempts at ploughing through it I think I've given up the ghost. I really wanted it to grab me but ... I don't agree that as book started must be a book completed. Life is too short.
Q6) The book you're reading currently
Young Men in Spats, by P. G. Wodehouse. I love PGW, and I will pick up any book of his when I find one in a charity shop or 2nd hand bookshop. Blissful stuff.
Q7) Your favourite short story
The Monkey's Paw by W. W. Jacobs made quite an impression on me as a child, and I frequently go back to it. Such a chiller. Honourable mention though to H. P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness. Probably no coincidence that both my choices are horror – the short story seems perfect for that genre.
Q8) Your all-time favourite novel
Probably Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. Like many books forced on us at school, I found it tedious when I was 15. Re-reading it in middle age was a revelation. I know it's a popular choice amongst Scots but with good reason. Its full of beautiful agony. Its tines are so well embedded in the soil that it connected with me in a way that no other book has. ●
Mark Mechan, as Red Axe Design, has been designing and illustrating books for over 25 years. A graduate of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, he loves to mix up old school hand-drawn artwork with a healthy dose of digital. His website can be found here.