Jonathan Coe, novelist: 'I admire Henry Fielding for his endless good humour'

The author discusses PG Wodehouse, Vashti Bunyan, and his Yamaha electric keyboard

Thursday 19 November 2015 17:08
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Coe says: 'Like most people, I write to escape myself'
Coe says: 'Like most people, I write to escape myself'

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm on a bench in Hyde Park, watching the early morning swimmers in the Serpentine with a mixture of amazement and admiration.

What are you currently reading?

Leave it to Psmith, by PG Wodehouse, as I'm addressing the Wodehouse Society next week. At a conference recently I said that Wodehouse represented the purest kind of comedy as it was unfettered by political or moral content – but a French academic told me I was wrong about that so I'm re-reading him in the light of her comment.

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

Henry Fielding, for his endless good humour and generosity of spirit.

Describe the room where you usually write?

I have a tiny study in my flat, about six feet square. It looks onto a brick wall and feels even smaller than it is because of the piles of paperwork everywhere (I haven't sorted anything since about 2005) and the fact that it also contains a Yamaha electric keyboard. I like to mess around with music when I can't think of anything to write.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

My own male protagonists resemble me to an alarming extent. This makes them very boring to write about – like most people, I write to escape myself, after all – and explains why my new book is populated almost entirely by women for a change.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

I just discovered the singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan and she is my new heroine. Her voice has an incredible delicacy and fragility and she crafts exquisite melodies.

Jonathan Coe's new novel is 'Number 11' (Viking)

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