I’d like to welcome the third person to the SSDD round table, William Rycroft. You may know Will from Twitter… or possibly his brilliant blog Just William’s Luck… however you may know him as an actor in the stage production of Warhorse. Either way, here is Will and his five questions.
1. Which author inspires you? Whether in your work, life or reading habits.
I have a huge amount of respect for those authors with longevity. We live in an age where a lot of time and money is spent publicizing debut authors or the latest publishing craze. When I see authors like Philip Roth writing for their whole lives and managing to write better than most others even on an off-day, then I find that very impressive. I also found Roth’s energy and honesty very invigorating when I first started reading him. To be honest I find the work ethic of writer’s in general very inspiring. I’m a lazy actor so the idea of sitting at a desk with no boss but yourself and not leaving it until you’ve achieved a certain number of words or whatever your self-imposed target may be is very impressive. A little closer to home I still can’t quite believe that my wife managed to write two plays whilst looking after a newborn baby. If that isn’t inspiring then I don’t know what is.
2. Which book has caused the biggest emotional response from you? (Not just sadness, but joy, anger, etc)
Before becoming a dad I was pretty good at keeping the old emotions in check. Something must have shifted because when I read A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry, and particularly when I finished the last few pages, I blubbed like a baby. That book depicts so delicately and subtly a relationship between father and son that I defy any of you to read it and not be moved.
3. Which book do you wish you had written and why?
Harry Potter. Because then I wouldn’t have to worry about money ever again.
4. Go to a bookcase at random, close your eyes and point at a random book. What is the book and have you read it yet?
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. I have read it and so should you, it’s brilliant.
5. What is your favorite book and why? (One you’d save from fire, take to a deserted island and recommend everyday of your life)
The dreaded question that I never know how to answer. Its so hard to answer this satisfactorily or definitively. So I’ll cheat and treat each of your three examples as separate entities so I can choose three! In the event of fire lets assume I’m well insured and so I’m not saving a book for its financial value but only it’s sentimental value. In that case I’d probably be grabbing an original copy of McSweeney’s Issue 4. It’s a cardboard box filled with separate booklets from authors like George Saunders, Haruki Murakami and Denis Johnson. They’ve reprinted it since but this is an original bought for me by my wife on our first wedding anniversary (paper) and a reminder that whilst she gripes about all the books I bring into the house now she knows how much I love the printed word.
I’ve thought about the desert island book because of Desert Island Discs obviously but have never come up with the answer as to which book would accompany my Bible and Complete Works of Shakespeare. I’ve ways felt it should be something weighty to fill the time and right now I’m thinking about the joy I got from simply picking a page at random in my Dad’s Columbia Encyclopedia when I was younger. Let’s go for the most up to date Encyclopedia Brittanica and I can take my time learning everything there is to know about the world.
Now, a book to recommend every day of your life. That is really, REALLY hard. Ok. I can only go on some kind of gut instinct on this one. I could answer this differently every day of the year but right now I’m thinking about William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow. It’s a short novel of such skill and insight and care from a writer of great humanity that I can wholeheartedly recommend it to all sorts of readers. I can’t see how you couldn’t love it. A novel about a murder, it is really about friendship, growing up and the weight of the past. A perfect novel from a fabulous and underrated writer.