Journalist, salonierre extraordinaire, and a published expert on the perils of quarterlife crises, Damian Barr's CV is as charmingly diverse as his choice of bedtime reading. The ringmaster of the fabled Shoreditch House Lit Salon, Barr has written for the Times, Granta, and Radio 4, and is also the world's first ever 'reader in residence'.
1. Best book about trips or journeys.
The Chronicles of Narnia. Wild journeys from the least likely start: a wardrobe is the departure lounge into fantasy. I also love Last Letter From Hav by Jan Morris which depicts a little-known European nation that is tiny and riven by about-to-be-warring factions. Of course, Hav isn't real but that didn't stop bewitched readers from trying to organise trips there when the book came out. Non-fiction I'd stay with Jan Morris and choose her book on Venice. It's a city so over-written and sentimentalised yet she sees it anew.
2. Which book are you mostly likely to pick as your ultimate survival manual?
It depends whose survival I am trying to guarantee. If we're talking about my own then A Boy's Own Story by Edmund White.
3. Which author would you most like to go on a vacation with, and what would you do doing?
Tennessee Williams in Key West in the 1970s, when he was behaving very badly indeed. We'd be drinking mai-tais on the porch of his tiny brightly-painted conch house and he'd be reading out lines he'd written that morning while we both waited for our respective gentleman callers.
4. The Lord of the Flies was once described as embodying the "diversity and universality of. . .the human condition in the world of today". Which character do you reckon you are most like?
Just. Not. Piggy.
5. If there was one book you had to burn for firewood, which would it be?
I would never ever burn a book.
6. Which paragraph or line from a novel would you choose for your final 'message in a bottle'?
'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.'
Image courtesy of Daisy Honeybunn.
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