It’s World Book Day on Thursday. In anticipation I invite you to choose your desert island fiction. As a self-imposed restraint one book per writer.
My eight (as of today):
Love and Garbage by Ivan Klima – dissident life in Prague and a meditation on life, love, and street cleaning
1982 Janine, by Alasdair Gray - a suffocating time inside the head of a Scottish businessman suffering a break down in Gray’s most powerful novel
The Castle by Franz Kafka – Roth once said that he felt the perfect film version would have starred the Marx Brothers – read it with that in mind and you can see why Kafka kept his neighbours awake with his laughter as he was writing
A Perfect Spy by John le Carre – no Smiley but semi-autobiographical examination of le Carre’s father and his relationship with him. Magnificent.
The Book of Evidence by John Banville – a murderous confession, Banville’s brilliant prose with a plot.
Hide and Seek by Dennis Potter – a central character who is writing about a character who believes he is a character in a book. A meditation on creativity, religion, and sex, and the root of The Singing Detective and Potter’s great 1970s plays.
A Perfect Vacuum by Stanislaw Lem – it was this or Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller. A collection of fake book reviews – erudite and witty – wins the day.
Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth – at the vanguard of great American art about puppeteers
The Trick is to keep breathing by Janice Galloway; James Meek’s Last Orders; MArquez’s Love in the time of cholera; Rabbit Angstrom by Updike (the Everyman four volume omnibus); Plath’s Bell Jar; Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians; Strugatsky brothers’ Roadside Picnic; Sjowall and Wahloo’s The Laughing Policeman; and JL Carr’s How Steeple SInderby Wanderers won the FA Cup.
If I’d chosen on Thursday I’d probably have a different eight