'Shelf Life' questions ('Shelf Life' questions taken from The Spectator’s regular feature)
1. What are you reading at the moment?
The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford (as part of my Readarama)
2. As a child, what did you read under the covers?
Pretty much anything. I ALWAYS read in bed… with one hand on the light switch incase I heard footsteps on the stairs. My biggest fear was not having enough books by my bed. I was a big Dick King-Smith and Michael Morpurgo fan. But to this day Astrid Lindgren is my absolute favourite children’s author.
(n.b. When Mummy dear was blowing-drying my hair, I unfailingly read all of the Asterix & Obelix comics. These 2 Gauls definitely taught me everything I know about the world. E.g. The Swiss are mad about cheese fondue, Britain grinds to a halt at 5 o’clock sharp for tea…)
3. Has a book ever made you cry, and if so which one?
Goodnight Mr Tom. I sobbed.
4. You are about to be put into solitary confinement for a year and allowed to take three books. What would you choose?
(I’m going to apply the Desert Island Discs rule here: I’ll get given the King James Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare anyway, so they don’t have to go on the list.)
*any of the Harry Potter’s (exact one to be decided on a whim at the time)
*Astrid Lindgren’s The Six Bullerby Children
*I’d be brave and pick something that I haven’t read... something from my reading list.
5. Which literary character would you most like to sleep with?
Jay Gatsby after one of his parties. Simple.
6. If you could write a self-help book, what would you call it?
It could be worse – this is pretty much my life motto. When I was monumentally home-sick aged 12, I told myself to man up... Empress Elizabeth of Austria (aka Empress Sissi) was engaged and married off at 15. Into a family and life which she loathed. Now SHE had a real reason to hate life.
7. Michael Gove has asked you to rewrite the GCSE English Literature syllabus. Which book, which play, and which poem would you make compulsory reading?
Um, what is on the syllabus? Realistically, you’re going to 100% hate whatever you have to read and study, therefore I don’t think I’d change anything. In hindsight though (and obviously thanks to my subsequent acquisition of intelligence. paha) I actually think The Lord of the Flies (on my syllabus) is a great read! The island really does beautifully depict the microcosm of society... jokes aside pals, it is a good book!
8. Which party from literature would you most like to have attended?
Obviously a party at Gatsby’s! (see Q5...) I also wouldn’t turn down an invitation to one of Sebastian Flyte’s Oxford parties.
A Neiss life. I’m sorry, but a name like mine simply must be abused for all its worth.
10. Which literary character do you dream of playing?
Ginny Weasley. I want to go to Hogwarts, it’s as easy as that. Obviously Hermione is a bit more of a star, but Ginny’s on the Quidditch team!
11. What book would you give to a lover?
Your Fertility Signals: Using Them to Avoid Pregnancy Naturally by Merryl Winstein. I joke, I joke. I would obviously find something deep, meaningful and loving to give him..
12. Spying Dan Brown on someone’s bookshelf can spell havoc for a friendship. What’s your literary dealbreaker?
As John Waters politely puts it, “If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ‘em.” Therefore in this case we’re onto a winner.. at least there’s a bookshelf. Dan Brown or no Dan Brown.