Hari Kunzru: 'I felt a terrifying force tugging me into the depths below'

 

 

The first book I wrote failed utterly I was 21 and it was this weird, self-consciously postmodern story about the mystical significance of the M25 motorway. It taught me to write only if the writing gave me a sense of pleasure, rather than dictate my behaviour according to a vague sense of someone looking over my shoulder and judging what I write.

Most people in the suburbs are probably insane In a quiet suburban way, there's madness behind those mock-Tudor windows. Suburbia is all about private ownership and not having to share, and it leads to a paranoid, defensive mindset. I know this, having grown up in Essex.

Who's taking the time to write all those Wikipedia entries? The entry for Wendi Deng [the wife of Rupert Murdoch] went up within seconds of that custard pie being thrown at him [during the parliamentary committee hearing into phone-hacking at the News of the World].

I suffer from vertigo It's paralysing in extreme situations. The most scared I've been as an adult was trying to conquer that fear by going climbing in Wales. I was clinging to a crag, mist floating beneath me, and I felt a terrifying physical force coming out of the top of my head and tugging me into the depths below.

Being in Harlem on the night of Barack Obama's election was extraordinary It was the best street party I have ever gone to, and it felt like the period of American history which began with slavery had ended that evening. A tough urban guy came up to me and hugged me and said, "If a black man can get this job, it means I can do anything." It was like something out of a cheesy movie.

Reasoned opinion is at a premium online People violently express extreme sentiments [on message and comment boards] that they would never say face to face. It's not as though some people didn't always think such things, but now it's as if you can lift a rock and see what's going on underneath.

Hari Kunzru, 41, is an award-winning novelist. His new book, 'Gods Without Men' (£12.99, Hamish Hamilton), is out on Thursday

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