Best short story I ever read: Lady with a Lapdog, by Anton Chekhov
For its humanity, precision, grace, and how it makes you imagine everything that came before the story begins and everything that will follow its ending.
Book I finished reading but wanted my time back afterwards
I try not to start books that won’t be valuable in some way. If it turns out I’m mistaken, I stop reading it and give it to the Irish Wheelchair Association shop in Clonakilty.
Book I would blush to be seen reading on the tube
Again, I can’t imagine myself reading something in public I would blush to be seen reading in public. How about a book I would love to be see reading on the tube? The Japanese translation of Finnegan’s Wake.
Best ‘film of the book’ I’ve seen: Tom Jones
Don’t know the director but it stars Albert Finney and was written by Henry Fielding. One of the few films where the actor gives funny looks at the camera and I don’t think of Benny Hill. Well actually I do think of him, but if Benny Hill were a brilliant eighteenth century novelist ‘Tom Jones’ is what he would have written so it’s just right.
Best Sympathy for the Devil novels
The Master & Margarita and Lolly Willows by Silvia Townshend Warner. Somebody reprint everything she wrote, Please.
Most out of date author photo I’ve seen
Dorian Gray. (I don’t know many contemporary authors, and the few I do
are still youngish so their photos haven’t aged that badly.)
Most famous author I’ve met who acted like a prat
Never really met a famous author prat, and I’d hesitate to condemn them in case there’s a valid reason for their prattishness I’d missed. I heard Lou Reed is blasphemously abusive to anyone who gives him the meekest ‘Excuse me Mr Reed but I just wanted to say your work’s really important to me,’ but perhaps he sees it as a necessary survival strategy. Plus he isn’t a famous author and I haven’t met him.
My favourite bookshop: Oxfam in Dalston, London
John Sandoe’s in Chelsea and Kew Bookshop right by Kew Tube Station. Both are indies, staffed by friendly literary brains trusts, and are in it for the love.
Author I’d like to see presented with all kinds of awards
There are too many deserving cases that naming one would exclude. If you insist, let me go for a poet. John Ash, whose collection The Burnt Pages is a wise, wry and true companion.
Celebrity author I'd like to see beaten with a stick, then never again
If I dislike a person / celebrity / their books it’s simply better not to go near them, not even with a stick. Perhaps TV tie-ins for TV programmes whose trailers depress me – I saw one called ‘What Not to Wear’. But, y’know, they might have a sick family member to support, maybe they give their proceeds to the Irish Wheelchair Society, I don’t know.