Best short story I’ve ever read:
‘The Cutter-off of Water’ by Margeritte Duras.
Book that should be on the national curriculum:
For Your Own Good by Alice Miller, a Swiss-German child psychologist. A persuasive and compassionate testimony to regard child-rearing as what it patently and obviously is: any society’s future and fate. The roots of cruelty, war-mongering, inhumane treatment of the planet and other living things are more preventable than our fears often suggest. This books explains better than most how the small becomes BIG. Everything else is extras, really.
Best film of the book I’ve seen:
Coo. All my favourite films tend to be films and not books. Same with favourite books. I guess Snow White. Top hit with me when I was four, certainly.
Best book about what books and literary words are:
The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker. He has the chutzpah to deal with opera too.
My favourite opening line of a novel:
‘“And the material doesn’t stain,” the salesgirl says.’ From Muriel Spark’s The Driver’s Seat.
My favourite novel that no one else seems to have heard of:
Just one? Tlooth by Harry Matthews. Or maybe This Haunted House by Rebecca
Brown. Or The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas by Machado di Assis. I notice they are all short.
The book I’d most like to reread, if I could find it again:
A beautiful edition of Hans Christian Andersen stories in translation I got for christmas when I was ten. My sister thought I was too old for “fairy tales”, but these very dark, very sad stories haunted me for ages and gave me sleep problems. Some recommendation, I know, but unmissable. Lost the book in a house-move and have no idea who the translator was. No other version has ever come close.
My favourite bookshop:
Voltaire and Rousseau in Glasgow. I can’t abide chain bookstores: they’re so riskless. V and R are second-hand stuff, so there’s more surprises.
Author I’d like to nominate for the Nobel Prize for literature:
I know nomination for the Nobel Prize is a Great Honour and all that, but writers are too personal to oneself to be much bothered with thinking of writers and writing in these terms. Ranking is not the purpose of writing. The wonder of great writing is that it works one-to-one, changes an outlook or way of seeing and that is the lasting influence. Alice Miller, Muriel Spark and Margeritte Duras were the writers I was sorriest to hear there’d be no more from, all for quite different reasons.
Deceased author I’d most like to ask what the hell he was on when he wrote it: