Source : The Guardian
The Man Booker longlisted author on Nora Ephron, Maggie Nelson and why Naked Lunch is overrated
The book I am currently reading
Things to Make and Break by May-Lan Tan is one of the strongest short story collections I’ve read in ages – sharp, strange and crystalline. I’m alternating it with The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, to remind me of what the best speculative fiction can do.
The book that changed my life
Bluets by Maggie Nelson, a series of vignettes loosely based around the colour blue. I like work that plays with genre. Is Bluets poetry, memoir, essay? Who knows – it’s just brilliant.
The book I wish I’d written
Morvern Callar by Alan Warner. It’s chilling and darkly funny and the film soundtrack (lifted from the book) is brilliant. I’m very into unlikable heroines.
The book that most influenced my writing
The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter – I read it in my teens, and I remember feeling startled and amazed by it. It presses the mundane up against the magical, all wrapped up in dreamlike prose.
The book I think is most overrated
Naked Lunch by William S Burroughs. You’d be better off reading the underrated Ice by Anna Kavan, which also deals with drug addiction in a surrealist, hallucinatory way, but which is infinitely more beautiful and lucid.
The book that changed my mind
The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek blew my mind when I read it, due to its approach to female desire. It’s a ferociously clever book about romantic obsession and masochism, treating subjects so often overlooked as hysterical with intellectual rigour, and it made me think: maybe I could do that too?
The last book that made me cry
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi isn’t out in the UK until November, but I’m already urging everyone to read it. It reimagines mental illness and disassociation through Igbo ontologies, following a character who was born with a foot on “the other side” and positioning their fractured personalities as various gods fighting for dominance. It was an intense reading experience and really affected me.