One Minute With: DJ Taylor, Novelist and biographer
Friday 03 June 2011
Where are you now and what can you see? I'm standing in my front room at home in Norwich. I'm staring at a drawing that Marc Boxer did for one of the Anthony Powell novels – an unpublished front-cover illustration that I managed to buy from a London picture-dealer around 16 years ago.
What are you currently reading? The last book I set down was Thackeray's 'Pendennis' – which I'd been re-reading because it's the Thackeray bicentenary this year, and I'm writing a big piece for the 'TLS' about how different he is from Zola or Balzac.
Choose a favourite author, and say why you admire her/him John Cheever. I'm convinced that the creators of 'Mad Men' – which I think is absolutely brilliant – have been reading Cheever. You could draw a Venn diagram to connect them.
Describe the room where you usually write A conventionally book-lined study. This house was built around 1898, and on the top storey are two maids' rooms. My wife Rachel [Hore, the novelist] has one study and I have the other.
What distracts you from writing? Domestic routine and, this weekend, watching my 11-year-old play sports: football, cricket, athletics...
Which fictional character most resembles you? Any one of the embittered hacks in 'New Grub Street', George Gissing's astringent vision of the late-Victorian literary marketplace.
What are your readers like when you meet them? "All sorts and conditions of men" – and women. Extraordinarily various. But: if you strew your books with allusions that you hope more sophisticated readers will detect, then some of them go mad and detect allusions that aren't there.
Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature? In public life it is the Labour MP Frank Field, for his maverick qualities. He has undeviatingly followed his own moral line.
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