Best short story I’ve ever read: Rode By All With Pride, by Jane Gardam
A desperately sad story about two academics whose daughter commits suicide. Full of insight and understanding, it contains the wonderful line: ‘The headmistress was statuesque and looked as if she had never needed a mother.’
Book I finished reading but wanted my time back afterwards: VS Naipaul, Half a Life
We did this in our book group, and felt it was half a book. The narrator was strange and unconnected, and although the book was clever in that he only lived half a live, it failed to move me in any way.
Book I wouldn’t blush to be seen reading on the tube
I don’t think one should be ashamed to be seen reading anything, but I did once try a Catherine Cookson out of interest and I wouldn’t have read that on the tube. (It wasn’t worth it).
Best ‘film of the book’ I've seen
I quite liked ‘The English Patient’. It couldn't match the book, of course, which is one of my all-time favourites, but it wasn’t bad. It had exactly the right feel and it brought the desert to life.
Favourite novel that nobody has ever heard of: The Underground Man by Mick Jackson
It was shortlisted for the Booker a few years ago. I spend a lot of time persuading people to read it because it’s a fascinating and original book.
Most embarrassing author photo
None of my photos are out of date, since there have only been a few circulating since February. However, there was an embarrassing one of me looking very frumpy next to one of David Beckham looking very sleek in an article which argued that Beckham should win the Booker because he sells more books. I think they must have looked around for the worst photo they could find.
Most famous author I've met who acted like an idiot
I haven’t met many authors. Most I have met so far have been extremely nice. Sorry to be boring.
My favourite bookshop
I have always loved the two Waterstones in Birmingham, partly for their sheer size. The New St branch was converted from an old bank, I think, and kept the beautiful ceilings and statues, which must be unique for a bookshop. The other, bigger one used to have a huge children’s section on the bottom floor with cushions to lounge on. Elsewhere, there are comfortable leather chairs. Whoever thought of putting chairs in a bookshop knew what he was doing.
Author I’d like to see presented with all kinds of awards
Everyone I read seems to have won hundreds of awards already. It’s difficult to believe there are that many to go around.
Celebrity author I'd like to see beaten with a stick, then never again
I don’t like this question. I feel people are too willing to knock authors like Martin Amis for no real reason. It is too easy to follow trends instead of producing more innovative thoughts, and I think it is undignified.