Best short story I’ve ever read
I can’t do ‘best’, because my memory’s so bad, but ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ by Flannery O’Connor is hard to beat.
Book that should be on the national curriculum
Ted Hughes’s Collected Poems for Children. Every child should be given a copy at birth. Every teacher should be forced to read it from cover to cover. It is the best education in opening eyes anyone could have.
Best film of the book I’ve seen
The Railway Children. The film is a wonderful 1970s tribute to Edwardiana and lost childhood; a re-invention that stays absolutely true to the spirit of the book.
Most under-rated female novelist of the twentieth century
Sylvia Townsend Warner, without a doubt. Her originality, formal inventiveness and vital intelligence in everything she wrote – novels, letters, articles – lift her out of time.
My favourite opening line of a novel
‘It was in the middle of a snowstorm I was born, Palmer’s brother’s wedding night, Palmer went to the wedding and got snowbound, and when he arrived very late in the morning he had to bury my packing under the wallnut tree...’ It goes on, commas acting as pauses for breath. From Sisters by a River, by Barbara Comyn.
My favourite novel that no one else seems to have heard of
Probably Barbara Comyns will do.
The book I’d most like to reread, if I could find it again
Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey. I remember it being a curiouser version of The Talented Mr Ripley and there being something wonderfully arch and period and twisted in the telling...
My favourite bookshop
I live miles from any bookshop in the middle of North Devon. A small independent shop, The Big Red Sofa, is opening in Chagford, the other (posh) side of the A30 — if it can’t thrive there, there is no hope.
Author I’d like to nominate for the Nobel Prize for literature
Alice Munro, one of the greatest living short-story writers...
Deceased author I’d most like to go on a fishing expedition with
Although I’m sure I’d hate fishing and I’m terrified of being afloat on water, I’d sacrifice both qualms to meet Raymond Carver. I’d trust him with my life.