Best short story I’ve ever read
Always changes, but recently I’ve enjoyed and been inspired by stories in AM Homes’ Things You Should Know and Linda Leatherbarrow’s Essential Kit.
Book that should be on the national curriculum
Coetzee’s Disgrace – because life isn’t like ‘Cider with Rosie’, and even ‘Kes’ is too cheerful for such troubling times.
Best ‘film of the book’
Lee’s The Ice Storm, Kubrick’s The Shining, Lolita and ‘Doctor Strangelove’, Losey’s The Servant, Huston’s The Dead, Lean’s Great Expectations, and Powell and Pressburger’s Black Narcissus are all wonderful interpretations of novels or short stories – but something really strange and magical happened when Charles Laughton made a film of Davis Grubb’s Night of the Hunter.
The best writing advice I have been given:
Listen to praise as much as criticism, but when it really matters, ignore both and follow your instincts.
My favourite opening line of a novel
‘Having placed in my mouth sufficient bread for three minutes’ chewing, I withdrew my powers of sensual perception and retired into the privacy of my mind, my eyes and face assuming a vacant and preoccupied expression.’ Not a proper beginning (according to the author) but I like it.
At Swim-Two-Birds, Flann O’Brien.
My favourite novel that no one else seems to have heard of
Daniel Woodrell’s ‘Give Us a Kiss’ was as welcome as a cold beer on a hot afternoon.
The book I’d most like to reread, if I could find it again
Actually I just re-located it to answer question 5: At Swim-Two-Birds. It will be interesting to see if it’s as funny and bewildering as when I read it twenty years ago.
My favourite bookshop
I used to love Compendium in Camden and most of my books come from cheap second-hand bookshops in the North Lanes in Brighton – pretty much all gone. I like Foyle’s on the South Bank – not too big or daunting, and pretty selective and tasteful in their choice of books.
Author I’d like to nominate for the Nobel Prize for literature
Pamuk, Pinter and Coetzee are all brilliant recent recipients. How about William Trevor or Bob Dylan or even David Chase?
Deceased author I'd most like to take out for dinner with Marlon Brando, Louise Brooks, Harpo Marx and Nina Simone
Jack Kerouac. They would probably hate Jack, particularly if he was drunk and defensive, and I might be disappointed if egos were allowed to get in the way of a potentially fun evening. But you never know, it could just work: like an A List ‘I’m Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’, only without Ant and Dec.