Joan Bakewell, writer and broadcaster: 'Who can match Nelson Mandela for character and achievement?'

Joan Bakewell discusses Scary Old Sex, Jane Austen and hoping for signs of spring

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I am in the room at the top of my London home, looking out over the treetops, hoping for signs of spring. I sit here most days: it's where I write my articles and books, sitting at my laptop. Feels like home.

What are you currently reading?

Scary Old Sex by Arlene Heyman: short stories by the American writer and psychiatrist, that are both funny and eye-wateringly explicit. Also, Number 11 by Jonathan Coe, a hilarious satire (all too plausible) on our way of life.

Chose a favourite author and say why you admire him/her.

Too many to select one: Ali Smith, Zadie Smith, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, none better than any other. Each draws you into a world of their own making, and I like being steeped in their worlds.

Describe the room where you usually write.

It is the top of my house, several rooms knocked into one, so windows back, front and side and lots of light. Three tables: one for House of Lords matters, one for writing and stuff, one for books and reminder notes.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Emma Woodhouse from Jane Austen's Emma. I'm like her in always trying to do the right thing and frequently getting it wrong. And given the chance I can be a bit of a busybody.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Nelson Mandela: 27 years in prison for a cause, then on release became President and ended apartheid. Who can match him for character and achievement?

Joan Bakewell will chair a talk with Frederic Raphael at Jewish Book Week on 25 February. Her new book is 'Stop the Clocks'