Scottish novelist Iain (M) Banks is this week’s Shelf Life provocateur. He tells us how he likes to test his potential lovers and what extreme punishments he exacts on books he doesn’t like.
1) What are you reading at the moment?
The Hell of it All by Charlie Brooker and Anatomy of the Orchestra by Norman del Mar are by the bedside, but the book I’ve just started is The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer (at only a year old, this is ferociously up-to-date by my standards).
2) As a child, what did you read under the covers?
3) Has a book ever made you cry, and if so which one?
A few have. Most recently, I got a bit misty-eyed at the end of And The Land Lay Still by James Robertson.
4) You are about to be put into solitary confinement for a year and allowed to take three books. What would you choose?
A la recherche du temps perdu; I have the tri-volume Penguin edition so it fills all three spaces. I got about half-way through the blighter fifteen years ago then threw it across the room in annoyance at Proust’s obfuscation but in a cell I suppose it would just bounce back off the wall…
5) Which literary character would you most like to sleep with?
Probably one of my own female characters (this isn’t egotism, I just think I’d have a better chance).
6) If you could write a self-help book, what would you call it?
Grow Up, Ya Morons!
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?
Don’t know; I’d have to find out which three would most annoy the Tory scumbag.
8) Which party from literature would you most like to have attended?
I seem to recall a Tolstoyan one – I think it’s in War and Peace – where somebody has a bear with them and they head off to another house with the words ‘Let’s take the bear!’ That sounded like an interesting hoo-ha.
9) What would you title your memoirs?
Surrounded by Idiots (Present Company Excepted. Provisionally.)
10) Which literary character do you dream of playing?
I confess such dreams have yet to trouble my waking or indeed sleeping hours.
11) What book would you give to a lover?
On The Nature of the Universe by Lucretius. Wheat, say good-bye to chaff.
12) Spying Mein Kampf or Dan Brown on someone’s bookshelf can spell havoc for a friendship. What’s your literary dealbreaker?
The Path To Power by Margaret Thatcher. Though I do own a copy; my late wife gave me it after it was ‘mistakenly’ sent to her by her book club and they didn’t want it back. I drilled a hole through it and inserted a 12mm diameter bolt along with a couple of brace of substantial washers, all secured with copious amounts of superglue. I also have a copy of Dianetics by L Ron Hubbard which has been shot five times with a .303 rifle, and a copy of Beasts of Gor by John Norman which has been set in concrete. These are kept in a cupboard in the garage, well away from the respectable books.