Best short story I’ve ever read
Cathedral by Raymond Carver made me cry before I’d even finished it and I re-read it 5 or 6 times straight off. It’s about a blind guy drawing a picture of a cathedral with the help of a regular joe, and they’re both a bit stoned, that’s all, but it’s about rapture. Yet I never felt any need to read anything else he’d written after that, maybe I can’t take too many bittersweet epiphanies that throw my life into stark relief.
Book I finished reading but wanted my time back afterwards
The Secret History by Donna Tart. A mystery story with no mystery, a character piece about characters you care nothing for, and really overwritten. Many American books seem overwritten to me, I think because in the US writers who want to tell a good story become scriptwriters, while those who think they’ve got ‘something to say’ become novelists. Result: American films are more interesting than American novels. Chuck Palahniuk is a notable exception.
Book I wouldn’t blush to be seen reading on the tube
I don’t care what I’m seen reading, except porn. I think I’d only blush if I was reading the same book as everyone else in the carriage.
Best 'film of the book' I've seen
The Third Man (dir: Carol Reed, script: Graham Greene). Awesome film, wouldn’t get made that way these days. No studio would accept a script in which the antagonist (Harry Lime) makes his first appearance half way in, and the hero doesn’t get the girl at the end.
Most under-rated second novel
Most second novels are underrated for a good reason. In fact I can’t think of one that’s better than the preceding book.
Most embarrassing author photo
I wouldn’t know, I haven’t looked at contemporary fiction for years. I’m considering getting some rugged, good looking actor to pose as me for author photos, I’m sure advances would double.
Famous author who winds me up
Martin Amis reads really slowly and every plump syllable is laden with self regard. Though maybe I don’t like him cause people say I look like him. I’m taller though, so ha.
My favourite bookshop
Index Books, Electric Avenue, Brixton. I go in to look at fiction, but as prime store space is given over to indignant political tomes, I get sucked into browsing them, and inevitably exit feeling militant. And I don’t get followed round by store detectives.
Author I’d like to see win more awards
JG Ballard; he’s the stylist of the modern age. Look what he was doing in the sixties, he was right about just about everything. OK, people pay attention now, but he’s still ignored in favour of lesser talents.
Author I’d like to see beaten with a stick, then never again
Anyone who started in stand-up. Anyone who went to Oxbridge, where they made all the right connections, then got their parents to fund them while they wrote their first novel. You know who you are.