Stephen Kelman, novelist: 'Kurt Vonnegut is as good as it gets. For his humanity, wisdom, playfulness, and lack of ego'


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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm in my office, sitting at my desk. There is a fresh deposit of bird shit on my window that I'm trying to ignore. I'm looking at a pencil sharpener shaped like a vintage typewriter, bought in an antique shop last year in Siracusa, Sicily. I haven't sharpened any pencils in it yet. I should use pencils more.

What are you currently reading?

I'm halfway through The Book of Gold Leaves by Mirza Waheed. It's a vital, melancholy portrait of life in war-torn Kashmir. And the jacket is gorgeous.

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

For me, Kurt Vonnegut is as good as it gets. For his humanity, his wisdom, his playfulness and, crucially, for his lack of ego. He's not concerned with meeting the reader's expectations or impressing them with virtuosity. He just wants to talk about how absurd and wonderful it is to be alive.

Describe the room where you usually write

I write in the back bedroom in the house I live in. I put a desk and a chair in there, and bookcases for books and the gifts people have given me. Photographs abound. Right now I am looking at a cast photo from the stage adaptation of Pigeon English, my first novel.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

I'd like to say Yossarian from Catch-22. I share his sense of impotent outrage and his violent appreciation of the absurd. Like him, I'm complicit in my own failures and amused by them at the same time.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

My mother. She taught me humility and gave me a bundle of injustices to fight against.

Stephen Kelman's new novel is 'Man on Fire' (Bloomsbury Circus)