One Minute With : Michael Palin

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

In my work room at home in Gospel Oak, London, I see the backs of houses, 1860s brick-built on one side, and 1980s architect-designed white concrete on the other, separated by an urban jungle of green trees and shrubs.

What are you currently reading?

Saddled with Darwin: A journey through South America by Toby Green. Entertaining, enterprising and very useful for a talk I have soon to give on the great man. My fiction fix at the moment is John Updike's S which I found while clearing out old shelves. Once I'd blown the dust off it, it hooked me from page one.

Choose a favourite author

Vladimir Nabokov. Elegant, stylish, funny, delicate and inimitable.

Describe the room where you usually write

It is ten metres long by three wide, windows on either side which overlook verdant back gardens, a circular staircase that leads onto the roof, and paintings and books on the walls.

What distracts you from writing?

Almost anything. My computer is the ultimate distraction, offering millions of alternatives to the job in hand. I'm seriously thinking of writing my next book (a second novel) long-hand, as I do with my diary each morning.

What fictional character resembles you most?

Lassie. Loves family life and is prepared to travel long distances for it.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

Backpack sporting, heavily perspiring and usually abroad

Who is your hero or heroine from outside literature?

Frank Pick, who created the design style for London Transport in the 1920s and 1930s, which has not been bettered since.

Michael Palin's volume of diaries, 'Halfway to Hollywood', is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson