Your name: Kevin. Or Mr. Kevin to you.
What are you currently reading? Diary of a Bad Year by J.M. Coetzee.
Where are you reading it? My favorite coffee shop in the morning, on a wall under the shade of an Elm at lunch, and on the couch or in bed at night.
What do you think of it so far? It’s extraordinary, probably the most important novel since Herzog. Three narrative modes, two points of view, and one hell of a snappy read about the things that matter most: beauty, politics, and ethics—and how to live in a world gone sideways. Do I exaggerate? Of course I do. But when a 70-year old novelist creates a new mode of storytelling, impartial observations are cold and obscene.
What is the one book you love so much that you can’t be objective about other people not loving it as well? Well, if I say Child of God or Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy and rhapsodize about the blind and very often cruel pursuit of something unnameable, I’d be telling you the truth but risking your good opinion of me. Which I’m desperate to court. So I’ll pawn off this nickel-plated truth instead: Song of Myself. Only the morally retrograde don’t like Whitman. That’s a fact. Like hating birdsong or something.
How do you choose what to read next? One part planning (I can be boringly systematic…). One part inspiration (…and whorishly opportunistic.).
Do you generally borrow books or buy them? Why? Buy. Loving, caressing, and smelling the pages of a borrowed book is deviant. Not so when you own them. That’s totally normal.
Favourite childhood book? Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I read it when I was 12-years old in the back of my mom’s brown Buick Apollo, sweltering on the white vinyl seats, as we crossed the salt plains of Nevada. But you know what? That road trip was one kick-ass adventure, collapsing, as if by magic, the distance between here & there at the speed of a turning page. Even now, when I see that tattered, old book cover, I shiver with a child’s joy.
Who is your literary boyfriend or girlfriend? Because I’m prone to wild infatuations, my literary girlfriends are many. At the moment, I’m passionately in love with the sighted woman in Blindness. Holy smokes! She makes Hester Prynne look like a grandmother who smells of hardboiled eggs and 10-day old ginger cookies. Best of all, I can call my wife “woman” without raising any suspicions.
What is your favourite either unknown or underappreciated book? Little, Big by John Crowley. I read it last year, and it was a significant event in my life. I looped it, that is to say, turned the last page, only to turn the first page and begin again. Crowley is a master of mood and atmosphere. I’m blown away by his ability to create a cosmology (fairies, worlds within worlds, tarot readings, etc.) that a skeptical bloke like me would take the time to explore.
What book would a prospective lover/marriage partner/friend have to say they loved for you to end your relationship with them immediately?
This isn’t hypothetical! In the long ago, I walked out on a date and stuck her with the check after she gushed about White Oleander. Sure, my behavior was wrong, but there are times — aren’t there? — when aesthetics demands its pound of flesh, and gets it.