More farm life than park life, the only cheese Alex James now produces is in his dairy. He lets us in on which books he’s reading in his country house, what he’d get girls & boys to read
for school and why he thinks literature is what a good camembert could never be: past its sell-by date.
1) What are you reading at the moment?
Treasure Island. I haven’t stopped
reading it for five years. It’s a masterpiece.
2) As a child, what did you read under the covers?
Everything: Enid Blyton, Willard Price, Roald Dahl, Diana Wynne Jones was a favourite, and Eric Linklater,
3) Has a book ever made you cry, and if so which one?
Hmmm. I can’t think of one – although music makes me cry all the time.
4) You are about to be put into solitary confinement for a year and allowed to take three books. What would you choose?
Three copies of Treasure Island. And a pen and paper. I’d go mad without a pen and paper.
5) Which literary character would you most like to sleep with?
Yvonne de Galais from Le Grand Meaulnes, the
most romantic book ever written.
6) If you could write a self-help book, what would you call it?
‘Get on with it, you beauty’
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?
I’ve always loved books but I’m afraid literature is a history topic. The golden age was the 1800′s Conan Doyle, Stephenson, Balzac, Dostoyevsky, Hans Christian Anderson. It’s downhill from there.
No one writes prose or stories like that any more – it’s all about dialogue and special effects in Hollywood or high content low production values on YouTube.
I’d have ‘em looking at tweets, films, songs and YouTube clips as well as books. Help them explore what engages them. I wasn’t ready for poetry until the sixth form. Why do a play when you can do a
musical? I’d think there’s a case for dropping Religious Education and replacing it with Bugsy Malone studies.
8) Which party from literature would you most like to have attended?
Never go to book launches. Tedious. Would have been up for going down to 54 with Truman & the gang
9) What would you title your memoirs?
Titles are tricky. I find they are always the last thing to come, not the first.
10) Which literary character do you dream of playing?
11) What book would you give to a lover?
Laurie Lee’s As I Walked Out One Midsummer
12) Spying Mein Kampf or Dan Brown on someone’s bookshelf can spell havoc for a friendship. What’s your literary dealbreaker?
I’d take any book as a positive sign. It’s crap TV that does my head in.
Fleur Macdonald is editor of the Omnivore.