1) What book are you reading at the moment?
Roger’s Version – my favourite Updike and Charles Elton’s Mr Toppit.
2) What book did you read last?
Updike’s Complete Henry Bech and Trollope’s The Warden
3) What book are you planning on reading next?
Dickens Great Expectations and Junot Diaz’s The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao.
4) Do you own most of the books you read, or do you borrow them from a library?
Own virtually all – but a new library opened nearby recently and we’ve joined to encourage the children to go.
5) Who was your favourite author when you were a child?
When a littl’un I enjoyed Tove Jansson’s Moomin books. When a bit older it was Terrance Dicks, Malcolm Hulke, Gerry Davis and Ian Marter in the Doctor Who Target series. I also had a soft spot for Willard Price’s (in retrospect) problematic adventure books. I liked Alan Garner too. When a wee bit older I’d moved onto the crime dames Christie and Marsh.
6) Which female literary character would you like to take out on a date and why?
At an impressionable age it was Esther Greenwood – she reminds me of my teenage self and my first teen love. Clara from Janice Galloway’s Clara – just because.
7) Which author would you most like to have a `one-to-one’ with?
John Banville. A wonderful critic, a great stylist, and his interviews suggest a man with a dry and mischievous sense of humour. My favourite current writer.
8) Which fictional character would you most like to have a ‘one-to-one’ with?
Nathan Zuckerman or Adolphe Sarre – who may or may not be a film director in Amnesiascope.
9) Which literary character would you least like to be stranded on a desert island with and why?
Jack from Lord of the Flies. Why? I’m short-sighted.
10) Which character would you most like to be stranded with?
A good conversationalist that would get rid me off me painlessly – Freddie Montgomery
11) In which literary/fictional location would you most like to live?
Simenon’s Paris or Roth’s Newark.
12) Which is the best TV/film adaptation of a book you have seen? why?
Tarkovski’s Stalker – adapting Roadside Picnic – enough of the Strugatski brothers’ original to be an adaptation, but with enough of itself to be a self-standing masterpiece. I’m hoping that this will be supplanted by red Riding in a month or two.
13) Which is worst TV/film adaption of a book you have seen? why?
The ITV Marple adaptations when they decided that they’d completely alter the plots, characters, and societal observations. Dame Agatha was not the greatest writer but she could plot – and if you’re going to adapt her novels you might as well keep the thing she was best at.
14. What film adaption do you actually like more than the book?
The Thirty nine Steps by Hitchcock. I find the original Buchan problematic on various levels. The anti-semitism is casual (and characteristics of the era of writing), the treatment of the lowland Scots patronising, and the plot flawed. Hitchcock adds elements and improves it. That later adaptations appear to work from Hitchcock rather than the original (no matter the protestations of the script writers) suggests that while Hannay was a great character (and better used in the later books Greenmantle and The Three Hostages) his introduction was flawed.
I’ll also say a word for Kubrick’s Shining. And Love etc a French adaptation of Talking it Over by Julian Barnes gives a flow to the story that is lacking in the mimicry of the author inhabiting multiple voices (in a manner that seems to be apeing Martin Amis in Success)
15. What book do you like better than the film adaptation?
The Cement Garden
16) What are your top 5 favourite books?
Philip ROth’s Sabbath’s Theatre
JOhn Banville’s The book of evidence
Alasdair Gray’s 1982 Janine
AL Kennedy’s So I am Glad
Ivan Klima’s Love and Garbage
Ask me next week and it’d be a different set.
17) Who is your favourite author?
Currently John Banville, David Peace, John Le Carre, Philip Roth, AL Kennedy, Janice Galloway, James Kelman, Michel Faber, Alasdair Gray, and from the past Simenon and Dumas, and I’m very partial to the one novel of Luther Blissett and the one by his colleague Wu Ming.
18. What is the most memorable line delivered in a film?
I don’t really think about lines in films to any great extent, so the most memorable tend to be bad. For example, "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue" from Airplane or Carry on up the khyber "I’ve come to save fallen women and save that one with the big ear rings for me".
19) What is your least favourite book and why?
I think Amsterdam by Ian McEwan is poor, the point at which i fell out of love with McEwan’s writing. The shock elements from his earlier books (integrated into the various plots) see this become a series of set pieces to a pat conclusion. We know where it’s going to end up from the point that euthanasia is first mentioned.
I also have an apparently irrational dislike of Remains of the day which strikes me as being less than the sum of its parts – with not much really going on beneath the surface. It’s like those books which appropriate Nazi imagery or time periods to try to give some depth.
20. If your life was a book, which author would you choose to write it?
AL Kennedy – I’m sure I’d come out much stranger than I think I am so might as well do it justice