Best short stories I’ve ever read
The Ebb Tide by Robert Louis Stevenson. Most things by Raymond Carver. Most things by Tobias Wolfe. Most things by Chekhov. Most things by Richard Bausch. Most things by Richard McKenna. Some people will like some, some people will like others.
Book I finished reading and wanted to re-read straight away
Again, too many. Anything by Herman Melville. Anything by Stevenson. Quite a lot of Henry James. Most of Alasdair Gray. An Act of Violence by Andre Brink. The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien. Most of Vonnegut. Most of Thomas McGuane. A lot of Hunter S. Thompson — too many.
Favourite books from my childhood
C.S.Lewis (except Prince Caspian — who always seemed a bit of a tosser), J.R.R. Tolkien, Catch 22 (which I pinched off a high shelf, as you do).
Best film of the book I have seen
Catch 22, Lord of the Rings, Shipping News — better than the book.
Most overlooked/underrated novels
A Trail of Heart’s Blood Wherever We Go by Robert Olmstead, Natural History by Juan Perucho, Chromos by Felipe Alfau.
Books that should be on the national curriculum
Anything but Harry fucking Potter!
Most famous author I have met who acted like a prat
That only works in reverse — I meet famous authors and act like a prat. And I once had a complete conversation with Russell Banks thinking he was Russell Hoban — but that was okay because I was very polite about his (someone else’s) work.
My favourite bookshop
Byres’ Road Oxfam. Anything on St Martin’s Lane or in Bloomsbury. And the one in Limerick where I got a Folio edition Chekhov letters for three quid.
Authors whose work should immediately be translated into English
All of them — do us good. The fact is, I don’t know enough foreign authors to be able to say this sensibly — the UK doesn’t translate enough. But definitely Boris Vian.
Deceased author I’d most like to meet
Billy Shakespeare — good sense of humour, very twisted. And Cyrano de Bergerac — because I wrote a book about him and he’d probably want to punch me, which is fair enough.