How did you discover Goodreads?
Through a laser reflected off Bruce Willis’s head and spotlighted in the sky, linking me to a website for cheap Viagra. When my tablets arrived Thurston Moore was inside the container complaining about having been shrunk by a mad bass player. Later as I was making love to the mad bass player, he yelled out “Goodreads!” at the point of climax, and I googled the website on my iPenis. Turns out he actually shouted “Lou Reed!” But I had already signed up for an account and read up to ninety books.
What have been your most memorable Goodreads experiences?
I once met Manny Rayner in a prominent Oxford gay bar. I asked him if he had ever read Proust in the original Spanish and he said “Never mind that, honey, let me see you shake that asp!” That may not qualify as a “Goodreads” moment but it certainly lingers in the memory. The whole community of ambitious readers and writers is a daily source of pleasure for me, I have found a pine-scented foster family there.
Name one reviewer not in the Forbes 25 that people should be aware of.
Unfair to prioritise one over another. All the people in my friends list are superb readers and reviewers.
What was your initial reaction to Amazon buying Goodreads?
“They’ll turn Goodreads into a corporate dunghole and censor us to buggery!” No evidence of that as yet.
How many books do you own?
My personal library is highly selective: usually I only keep books I have rated five stars, or four star books that are close to my heart in some way. Since I live in a relatively small flat (with high ceilings but no shelf space), I only have one central bookcase and mantelpiece at my disposal. Somewhere between 150-200.
Who is your favorite author?
I’m going to attach a plural to that noun. Among them: Gilbert Adair, Martin Amis, Nicola Barker, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky, William H. Gass, Alasdair Gray, B.S. Johnson, James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, Flann O’Brien, Raymond Queneau, Hubert Selby Jnr, Will Self, Ali Smith, Gilbert Sorrentino, Alexander Theroux, Kurt Vonnegut, and David Foster Wallace. Almost everything from Dalkey Archive Press.
What is your favorite book of all time?
Another plural required. Among them (by aforementioned authors): The Information, Wide Open, If on a winter’s night a traveller, Little Dorritt, Crime & Punishment, The Tunnel, Poor Things, Ulysses, Last Exit to Brooklyn, Cock & Bull, Hotel World, Mulligan Stew, Tristram Shandy, Darconville’s Cat, Mother Night, The Pale King.
What are your thoughts on ebooks?
A book is either a book-in-itself, or is separate from the world-of-books and its paratexts. I prefer books-in-themselves, but by no means do I baulk at the usefulness of e-readers and e-books. In five years’ time, I will probably be reading books on e-readers.
What are your thoughts on self-publishing?
I self-published a novel of my own last year and it was widely reviewed by my GR friends. If my novel had been published by a small independent press, it may have received more critical reviews, but far less readers and reader reviews. My GR friends seemed to be the perfect audience for that book. In terms of future books, I would rather be published by houses and earn an old-fashioned reputation. The DIY revolution will simply make it impossible for any writer to get paid for their work, unless they write boring literary or genre fiction.
Any literary aspirations?
See above. My novel Arlene’s Atoms, about a hairdresser who falls pregnant with a universe, is sitting with some publishers awaiting the rejection pile. I have three “experimental” novellas completed, each sitting queasily with cashless independents. I am currently taking a hiatus from writing due to exhaustion and real-world pressures, and may have given up entirely by the time you read this.