My Literary Top 10:
Best short story I’ve ever read:
‘Funes the Memorious’ by Jorge Luis Borges, about a man who can’t forget anything ever, and the effect this has on his life and mind. Funes experiences every single leaf on a tree as being a separate entity and therefore in need of a name of its own. The word “leaf” does not suffice. Language itself overwhelms him.
Book that should be on the national curriculum:
The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath. Words overflowing into life, joy, pain, death, the whole damn thing.
Best film of the book I’ve seen:
Alfred Hitchcock’s film of Boileau and Narcejac’s d’Entre les Morts (From Amongst the Dead). In other words: Vertigo. Best plot ever: obsessive love, doppelgangers, Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart. What more do you want?
Best ever novel about trout fishing in America:
Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan. One of the early Picador novels; for my generation, the first time we felt that a literature really belonged to us.
My favourite opening line of a novel:
“Call me Ishmael.” Imagine: beginning such a massive book (Herman Melville’s Moby Dick), about such a massive subject (hunting for a giant white whale), with such a note of doubt. What does Melville mean by saying “Call me Ishmael?” Isn’t that the narrator’s real name? It’s an alias? He’s keeping secrets, from sentence one. Why? So then, a great start.
My favourite novel that no-one else seems to have heard of:
The Age of Wire and String, by Ben Marcus. Amazing, bizarre, poetic, experimental, post-modern fragmented novel could only be written by one person. It has in spades exactly what I’m looking for in a work: a unique, personal vision.
The book I’d most like to reread, if I could find it again:
I very rarely reread books, but if can change the question to: “The book I’d most like to reread, if I could find my way back into it again,” then one answer would be Ulysses. I’ve found myself lost in this labyrinth of words a few times already. Perhaps one day…
My favourite bookshop:
City Books, Hove. The large bookshops seem to be selling more and more of less and less, whereas little shops like this one keep the flame alive.
Author I’d like to nominate for the Nobel Prize for literature:
JG Ballard. He was the first writer to really understand the post-modern condition, years before we even had that term. And he also that quality mentioned above, a style that belongs to him and him alone, through which the world is filtered and seen anew.
Deceased author I’d most like to meet at a bus stop late at night when the last bus is nowhere to be seen:
Samuel Beckett. I’d ask him the time and he’d reply, “Time, time, have you had done with your abominable time! One day we are born; one day we die. Is that not enough for you?!” And I’d say in reply, “Hey, Sam, I was only asking.”