Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Favorite Books Q/A
done for Interview magazine Germany

- What books are on your nightstand right now?

I have something like 50 books lined up to read (seriously, I do -- I am a nut about buying books). But the ones I’m seriously focused on reading right now are: Tubes: A Journey To the Center of the Internet, by Andrew Blum, and Camille Paglia’s Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars.

- Which book was the last one that profoundly impressed you? Why?

George Melly’s Revolt Into Style: The Pop Arts, which was written at the end of the Sixties and is a very sharp take on the significance of pop music and pop culture in general, and informative too, which lots of stuff on things going on in Sixties Britain that are now forgotten. I was also impressed by the writing style and elegant thinking of Decadence: The Strange Life of An Epithet, by Richard Gilman, while not necessarily agreeing with the argument.

- Is there a book that changed your life? When was that and what did it change?

If it could be a zone of writing rather than a book, I would say the NME between 1979 and 1982, because the writers (Julie Burchill, Paul Morley, Barney Hoskyns, and many others) showed how seriously you could take music, and how much fun you could have taking it seriously, and how writing seriously about music could be incredibly stylish and charismatic, as exciting and vivid as the music itself. That magazine, between those years, set me on my present course. If it was to be strictly a book in the book sense, then I would say Roland Barthes’s The Pleasure of The Text, as the representative text of a whole bunch of French critical theory that changed my conceptions of what art (including music) was about and how it worked. But then I first heard of Barthes and the rest of those philosophers through reading the NME. Another one that affected me that I heard about from NME's Barney Hoskyns was Nietzche's The Birth of Tragedy.

- Which book was your favorite when you were a child?

Too many to list really, I was a serious bibliomaniac. But if pressed to pick one, I’d probably go for The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. 

- Is there a piece of classic canonical literature you didn't like at all?

I can’t really think of one that I completely detested and couldn’t see the point of at all.  But I was underwhelmed by Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. There’s some great passages of mystical writing in it but overall I found it not very engaging. I got to about 40 pages from the end and then just stopped. Had no interest in finding out how it ended. I don’t know if Kerouac counts as “classic canonical” though.

- Where is your favorite place to read at?

On the sofa, when everyone in the house has gone to bed. When you’re so into a book you willingly give up sleep. There’s been books where I’ve been so gripped, that even though my kids will be waking me up at 7AM, I’ll have stayed up until 2AM.

- Which literary character do you adore the most? Would you like to be him/ her for a day or two?

I’m finding it hard to think of a literary character I adore. I don’t adore Maldoror in Lautreamont’s Chants de Maldoror, but he is pretty charismatic. Same with Des Esseintes in Against Nature by J.K. Huysmans. But neither of them are admirable. They’re not people I’d like to be. Often the most compelling characters are evil, or damaged, twisted individuals, or pathetic. Like in Nabokov's novels: Humbert in Lolita, the crazy professor in Pale Fire, Van Veen in Ada.  Or Alex in A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.  Or the protagonist of Dostoevski’s Notes From Underground.  I wouldn’t want to really be inside any of these guys’s skins for a day, or a minute really.

No comments: