Best short story I’ve ever read
‘Game’ by Donald Barthelme. It’s set in a bunker, and is perhaps about nuclear war, or perhaps not – it doesn’t really matter. Two men wait for their relief, and contemplate killing each other, and wait more, and sing as they cradle one another to sleep.
Book that should be on the national curriculum
Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille. Two teenagers play sex games with eggs, watch a matador get killed through the eye, then cut a priest’s eye out after they’ve made him come over his cross. I gave it to all my godchildren for Christmas.
Best ‘film of the book’
The Man Who Fell to Earth by Nicholas Roeg (adapted from the novel by Walter Tevis). Average book, fantastic film.
Worst book I’ve ever read
Anything by Thomas Hardy. He must be the worst writer ever to be taken seriously. His writing is bad at every level and in every way.
My favourite opening line
‘We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.’ — Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
My favourite novel that no one else seems to have heard of
Grabinoulor by Pierre Albert-Birot. Guy sees an object on his mantelpiece isn’t straight, then realises it’s the mantelpiece itself that isn’t straight, then the foundations of his house, then the axis of the earth. As he goes about fixing it he causes earthquakes, tsunamis, etc… A hundred little episodes like that. Predates Ulysses, to boot.
The book I’d most like to reread, if I could find it again
The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht. Tells you what to do if someone’s shooting at you, or a bear’s chasing you, or your parachute doesn’t work, and a bear’s shooting at you, etc.
My favourite bookshop
London Review of Books Bookshop, Bloomsbury. Has proper books in it, which is very rare.
Author I’d like to nominate for the Nobel Prize for literature
Alain Robbe-Grillet. Most important French post-war writer after Beckett and Claude Simon, who both won the prize. His whole aesthetic is about geometry, space, repetition – and psychosis.
Deceased author I’d most like to do it with
Emily Dickinson. With a name like that...