Read it and weep

Did the BBC lose some crucial episodes of the Big Read? Bill Greenwell has access to the celebrity critics we missed
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The Independent Culture

John Prescott on The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

This is a book, and I'm not saying it isn't, which quite honestly has a speaker, very feminine, and she troubles herself with ghostial events, this is in Sussex, and she has employment as a governess to Miles and Flora, which is all well and good, teach as you would be taught by, which is her preposition to the unfurling of events in the house, a great house, but at the end of the day, which is twilight in my book, she has a habit of seeing dead people, and she suffers from insomniacs. And these dead people, I'm not saying buried, they pop up, okay, when she is least expectation of it, lakeside, through the windows, all very baffling, but what I am saying is this is a book which in bafflement keeps you guessing, no doubt, there's no doubt about that. So I say, which is a recommendation, I recommend to you, that nothing is quite what it isn't, and I believe that this is the book you should read, sometimes the sentences are quite complicated, very complicated, but never mind, and what is a ghost story without ghosts, which keeps you guessworthy all through, so keep reading, which is my advisory, and no mistake.

Madonna on Mr Peabody's Apples by Madonna

Yeah, I love this idea, you know, physically, emotionally, it's kind of serendipity, and it's based on the Qabalah. It's £12.99. Thank you for asking me, I have to go now.

Tom Paulin on Mr Mean by Roger Hargreaves

I think this novel is absolutely tremendous. Really, it's a very powerful statement of that niggardly, miserly tradition which goes all the way back, right back to Milton in actual fact. I mean, when you consider all the bloated, smug, self-satisfied, middle-class pilfering of popular culture that masquerades as literature, then I think that Hargreaves is absolutely on the ball. There's something Bunyanesque about this novel. It has a quintessentially parsimonious take on the nature of what it actually means to be a miser, which is a kind of utterly radical irony. Quite frankly, I'm surprised that anyone could mistake the sheer Puritan quality of the writing, which is not in the least bit factitious, and which has a positively incantatory rhythm. Metrically, it has the same sense of frustrated grandeur that you find in Yeats. This is not some tinpot, gimcrack, faux-naif piece of flat-headed prose. I mean, just listen to the incremental serendipity of the character's journey. This is a character who achieves the semi-mystical stature of Heathcliff, for God's sake. There is a certain sanctity about the whole endeavour. I mean, we all know what Mr Mean means, do you not think?

Tracey Emin on A History of the World in Ten-and-a-half Chapters by Julian Barnes

This is art, definitely. What happened, right, is they gave me this book to interpretate, and I thought, I'm out of here, because, you know, this is just another book, and who needs it, right? But the way he's fucking bisected this into 10, and he's still got this half a bit over, that's brilliant, because there's loads of people that would have called it 11 chapters, and it was like Boom!, you know, like, Ohmigod, Boom! And you can't just look at it, right, you have to read it and come up with different pustulations about its meanings. And there is stuff in there which is honest, right, like you wouldn't credit, only you have to. Like the Moon, and Noah, and terrorism, which is a bit off, if you ask me. And love, definitely. Also it came with a free picture, which is all about painting limbs and things, right, sort of plasticination, only 19th century. You have to read it, all the words there are genius.

David Beckham on Gulliver's Travels

Reading-wise, I have always had a favourite, you know, it's really good, actually, it's called Gulliver, Gulliver's Travels. Erm, and he has four of them, four travels. And I don't know how he done it, it's amazing really, he gets to this place Littleput, and the people there is, erm, all little, size-wise. So, he's really big, and they're only about six inches, which is sort of very small, and he's like Michael Jordan, only a lot bigger, actually. To be fair, there is a lot of, a lot of arguing, obviously involving the little people, and some of them has high heels, and some of them little heels, which is very, very funny, and this Gulliver bloke, erm, he's sort of like a really cool bloke, they tie him down with strings attached. That's like football, really. And honestly, adventure-wise, it is quite a big adventure. Oh yeah, and he has three other travels, one where he is the small one, like the one the crowd make fun of. And there is one place they get sunlight out of cucumbers, honestly. And one where the people is horses, and the others is dirty beasts. Yahoo. No, that's their name. So I would, erm, vote for that. Gulliver's Travels. Which is by Gulliver, obviously.

Margaret Thatcher on Ulysses by James Joyce

May I just say that this is set in one day - one day! - in Dublin, and moreover in the Dublin of Homer, of the Greek poets? You tend to think of Dublin as quite, quite Irish, you know, whereas this is a tremendously long novel, you see, and that is why it is so complicated. If one reads it, one realises how tough life is, how hard. So look, just turn the pages with very great sorrow, and very great dignity, and - may we be frank? - just follow the words, and read Joyce. Read Joyce.