Best short story I ever read: The Reaping Race by Liam O’Flaherty
Concerns a race to harvest a rye crop in a West of Ireland field a long time ago. O’Flaherty was one of the triumvirate of mid-20th century Irish masters of the short story — the others were Seán O’Faoláin and Frank O’Connor. The Reaping Race is short and sparse but imbued with a dramatic beauty of epic proportions.
Book I finished reading but wanted my time back afterwards: The Secret History by Donna Tartt
A big book by a little lady, knowingly reminiscent of the Brat Pack masterpieces of Jay McInerney and Bret Easton Ellis, but without the cool amorality or literary style. Enid Blyton on Ketamine.
Book I would blush to be seen reading on the tube
Never read on the Tube. Or listen to music on headphones. Rambling the city alone, listening and looking, is my work as a writer.
Best ‘film of the book’ I’ve seen:
The Sheltering Sky, directed by Bertolucci, based on the novel by Paul Bowles
Bowles is the only writer I aspire towards resembling. Bertolucci is a first rate director. I chose this movie not because of any inherent excellence but because this is exactly the way any writer would want to see his/her book adapted. Directed by a righteous director with the author invited to narrate the movie and with his face being the last thing we see on screen when the film ends.
Most overlooked novel: City of Night by John Rechy
Once very famous/influential, now largely forgotten, novel concerning rent boys in metropolitan America. Rechy had some bad publicity a few months back when he got caught reviewing his own books on Amazon. There was a great chattering classes debate. At least it got his name into circulation again.
Best novel I’ve read set within the music industry
Chelsea Horror Hotel by Dee Dee Ramone.
With his punk rock career in crisis, Dee Dee washes up in the Chelsea Hotel where he is haunted by the ghosts of contemporaries like Sid Vicious and Johnny Thunders. If he’d lived, poor Dee Dee would’ve made a superb full-time writer. He had the junkie ear for dialogue and the junkie eye for scenario. I cut my teeth on the new-territory lyrics he wrote for The Ramones. One day I’ll attempt an ambitious novel about the rock world — few have manifested themselves thus far. I’ve been a band manager, publicist, performer and fan. I don’t think I’m cut out for being a big shot rock writer. You need to be a certain type of pompous asshole — like Greil Marcus — to pull that one off. I’m asshole enough for the job but you can’t be pompous and an anarchist at the same time.
Most famous author I’ve met who acted like a prat
That would be Zadie Smith. I did a reading with her around the time White Teeth was happening. She sure was grumpy, self-important, and bad mannered.
My favourite bookshop: Oxfam in Dalston, London
Paperbacks 59p each, that’s why.
Author I’d like to see presented with all kinds of awards
Juan Goytisolo and Ulick O’Connor and Stanley Booth and Victor Bockris and Mohammad Mrabet deserve the Nobel Prize for Literature. Or for Peace. (After all they gave Churchill the Prize for Literature for his barbaric prose and Henry Kissinger the Peace Prize for genocide. Why not celebrate the good guys for once?)
Celebrity author I'd like to see beaten with a stick, then never again
Jamie Oliver. I’d like to see him beaten slowly with a riding crop (I used to have one for this purpose but it got frayed from overuse) or I’d like to watch slow motion film of him being beaten vigorously with a stick.