Andrew O'Hagan, novelist and critic: 'I love Joan Didion. I love her whole nervous system


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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm at my writing cabin in Scotland, and, across the Firth of Clyde, the hills of Arran are covered in snow.

What are you currently reading?

I am reading The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope. It gives oxygen to the idea that you can capture society in a novel. Also Johann Hari's Chasing the Scream, about the "war" on drugs. The book is a great comeback for a really interesting writer.

Choose a favourite author and say why you admire her/him

I love Joan Didion. I love her whole nervous system.

Describe the room where you usually write

It's a nice corner room in Primrose Hill, filled with lamps, books and portraits of people who owe me money.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

The Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. It's not that I don't have a heart, more that, in certain lights, I look entirely silver. I share his reasonableness, his hurt expression, and the fact that he wants everybody to have a nice time.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

My friend Neil MacGregor, of the British Museum. He wouldn't say this, but he beats the world's commissars at their own game. He takes his own passion and expertise, his own spirit and understanding, and uses it to free the minds of people everywhere. And he's great fun.

'The Illuminations' by Andrew O'Hagan is published by Faber & Faber (£17.99)