Q. Which other EAFOL 2016 participant are you most excited about?
Anthony Beevor and John Julius Norwich are two ‘biggies’ because I do like my history and have enjoyed both their work. Justin Marozzi, because I really enjoyed Baghdad and my hobby is Middle Eastern history – Norwich’s books on the fall of Byzantium are fascinating and glorious things. Rachel Hamilton, because I know she’ll do something really stupid and embarrassing or set fire to somewhere and that’ll be just fine.
Q. Which book(s) are you reading now?
I’m reading Le Carré’s The Mission Song. For some reason I’ve been putting it off for years and I’ve finally decided I have to do it. So far, so good, I’m a couple of chapters in and he remains a unique and brilliantly skilled stylist. But I’m yet still a little skittish about it. Why? Couldn’t tell you; just something always put me off it. I think perhaps the whiff of romance imparted by the posters for the film reminds me of what I, as a reader, consider his one disaster – The Naive and Sentimental Lover. As usual, I’m sure I’ll find I’m just being unfair.
Q. Which literary character would you invite to dinner? And why?
I’m not allowed one of my own, right? Oh, well. Justine from the Alexandria Quartet, because I could sit and listen to her tell the same story three times over and not get bored. Or even understand it properly until someone tells it to me again later. Or if we’re going with the Festival’s Shakespeare thing, Iago. I always quite liked Iago.
Q. There have been some interesting additions to the dictionary over the years. Which word would you remove?
Selfie. And the people who take them. It should be a capital crime. That awful self-obsessed desire to share yourself not enjoying a moment because you’re so busy recording an image of you breathlessly grinning at the back of your iPhone as you fail to appreciate anything around you except that urge to document your stupid gurning just a few short seconds before I grab your selfie stick and beat you to the ground with it until you stop twitching.
Not, you understand, that I feel strongly about it or anything…
Q. Who would write/ illustrate the story of your life?
Dr Seuss. No brainer, that one…