Best short stories I’ve ever read
Very hard to pick just one. ‘Aquifer’ by Tim Winton is a wonderful story of bushland becoming suburbia, of childhood and lost horizons – poetic, profound. ‘Dance in America’ by Lorrie Moore for her extraordinary language, and Miranda July’s stories in her debut collection No One Belongs Here More Than You.
Books every child should read at school
More short stories: Alan Silitoe’s collection The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, and for fun and magic The Faber Book of Childrens Verse or any similar anthology.
Best ‘film of the book’
The Third Man by Carole Reed 1969, a real black and white expressionist treat in which the film’s ending is better than the original story version by Graham Greene. Also Nicholas Roeg’s 1973 spooky classic Don’t Look Now with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, from a story by Daphne du Maurier.
Best cover to a book
Lucky Girls by Nell Freudenberger – simple blue airmail letter design with stamps and postmark from Bombay, Vietnam, Thailand, Afghanistan, India. The stories inside easily match the cover expectations.
My favourite music opening line of a novel
An ending instead: “P.S. Sorry I forgot to give you the mayonnaise.” The last line of Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America. It was always his ambition to end a book on the word ‘mayonnaise’.
My favourite book no one else seems to have heard of
Forty Stories by Donald Barthelme, weird and fantastic experiments in form. Truly a one-off.
The book I’d most like to reread, if I could find it again
Sleep it off Lady by Jean Rhys, an early inspiration, a collection that helped me find my way.
My favourite bookshop
The Bookshop, Wigton in south west Scotland – Scotland’s Hay on Wye. Complete with reclining skeletons, crumbling sofas, stuffed animals, open fires, and thousands of out of print and secondhand treasures.
Author I’d like to nominate for the Nobel Prize for literature
Alice Munro, for quietly, tenaciously, sticking with stories.
Deceased author I would most like to share a coffee and lemon tart with
William Makepeace Thackeray, to thank him for bringing to life the delightfully appalling and Machiavellian go-getter, Rebecca Sharp, in his novel Vanity Fair.