Pulp.net - Paul Farley

The Online Home of New Fiction

November 2008
My Literary Top 10: Paul Farley

Top 10
Best short stories I’ve ever read
Herman Melville’s ‘Piazza Tales.’ Is Billy Budd a short story? I also remember one called ‘The Language of Men’ by Norman Mailer. I’m not sure whether it’s beautifully crafted or anything, but I liked the specific pleasure of the small man who breaks up a fight involving larger men; and the big sulk the cook goes into. ‘On Leaving a Volume of Søren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling in the Back Room of the Campbeltown Bar, Dundee’ by Bill Duncan is braw, too.
Book I was forced to read at school:
In the comp we read this book called A Pair of Jesus Boots. It was about a kid called Rocky O’Rourke and his scallywag brother. Only gentle force was applied: we read out loud, in turn. Infants school was far worse: you had to wear pink woolly boots if you got caught raising your feet to anybody.
Best ‘film of the book’
The House of Mirth.
Best-dressed literary hero:
Michael Donaghy. Sartorially, it was where street Bronx and hippy and the well-dressed poet meet. He bought a leather jacket on a whim once when he was stoned, and still looked good. When he came to visit me in the Lake District there wasn’t any gortex to be seen, though he could fashion a sou’wester out of a carrier bag.
My favourite opening line of a novel:
‘Pilgermann here.’ From Pilgermann, by Russell Hoban.
My favourite novel that no-one else seems to have heard of:
I’m sure most Pulp Net readers will have read it, or at least heard of it, but I often get a funny look when I mention The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien.
The book I’d most like to reread, if I could find it again:
The Snow Party by Derek Mahon. Give me it back, Don.
My favourite bookshop:
I’ve been following a bookshop around. In the early eighties Atticus Books was on Hardman Street in Liverpool. It was second-hand stock, the genuine ruddish odour of foxing and mildew. It had a wooden life size cut out of James Joyce stood outside when it was open for business. I say ‘life size’, I mean an approximation: you know what I mean. In 2002, I was walking through Lancaster, I’d not long moved back to the northwest, and there he was, James Joyce, on King Street. Atticus Books again. I went in. I felt like Mr Benn.
Last time I looked, though, it had gone. Presumably I will follow.
Author I’d like to nominate for the Nobel Prize for literature
I’d have to say Russell Hoban.
Deceased author I’d most like to use as an excuse to shoehorn more poets into your fiction list feature:
WH Auden. If he was revivified I’d ask if he’d brought any over-the-counter Dexedrine back with him, then declare it to be the cocktail hour, pour the Campari and sodas, stand well back, and listen.
Paul Farley has written two widely acclaimed books of poetry: The Boy from the Chemist is Here to See You, which received a Forward Prize and the Somerset Maugham Award; and The Ice Age, which was awarded the Whitbread Poetry Prize. His third collection, Tramp in Flames, is published by Picador in September 2006. He has also written a short book about the film Distant Voices, Still Lives, and often writes for radio, journals and the newspapers. He is currently at work on a screenplay. He lives in north Lancashire.