One minute with... John Burnside, Poet, Nevelist and Man Booker Prize Judge

'I work at the kitchen table - Old habits are hard to break'

Thursday 15 October 2015 14:22

Where are you now and what can you see? I am at my old stone cottage in rural Fife, staring out at the sheep and the buzzards – and the rain, obviously. Despite the bad press, buzzards make great neighbours: quiet and watchful, they make me feel that time isn’t the burden it seems.

What are you currently reading? I finished reading 150+ novels for the Man Booker Prize, and then re-reading the shortlist – I’m sticking to non-fiction for a while. Right now, that means Philip Marsden’s beautiful “search for the spirit of place”, Rising Ground, a book that is genuinely essential for all of us, from whom place is being stolen on a daily basis.

Choose a favourite author and say why you admire her/him. An author to whom I often return is Theodore Dreiser, the most gifted of the American realists (in my opinion). He was ahead of his time, I think, in seeing how Capital so insidiously shapes, not only our outward, render-unto-Caesar lives, but also the chambers of our imagery, the inner life that should be ours alone to create and extend and inhabit.

Describe the room where you usually write. I work at the kitchen table. Old habits are hard to break. I have a separate study and my wife is scandalised, but I can’t help it. When I have complete control of the kitchen, the key features are a vase of flowers, (at the moment, a self-indulgent bouquet of lilies) and silence.

Which fictional character most resembles you? Moby Dick.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature? Historically, I’m torn between Big Mama Thornton and Emma Goldman. Of my contemporaries, my hat is off to Carne Ross, tireless seeker of peace and justice.

John Burnside was a judge for the Man Booker Prize 2015, announced this week

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