On the Books: David Braziel

In the first of a new series, we pose ten questions to local authors, asking them all about the books they love and their reading habits. First up is poet, writer, film maker and performer David Braziel.

What book(s) are you reading right now?
I seem to always have at least two or three books on the go at the same time, is that normal? Right now I’m reading Stephen Fry’s retelling of the Greek myths, Mythos, and Tom Hank’s book of short stories, Uncommon Type. Both are audio books but I still count that as reading. I listen to a lot of audio books these days just because it is so much easier to fit listening into a busy week and encroaching age is making reading more and more uncomfortable.

A book you loved reading at a child.
I think the first books I got hooked on were Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven series, all painfully old fashioned and embarrassing today of course. Then I read a lot of science fiction, Brian Aldis, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C Clarke. Two book that really stands out though are Terry Pratchett’s Colour of Magic and Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. The mixture of dry humour, fantasy and a great story in both really spoke to me.

A book you have given as a gift / recommended to a friend.
Ive been going through a phase recently of reading comedians’ autobiographies, and there are quite a few I would recommend and have given as gifts. I can’t narrow it down to one here so I’m going to pick two that go together as perfect companion pieces and should, I think, be bound together in a special edition. Sarah Pascoe’s Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body and Robert Webb’s How to be a Boy. They each explore in depth with humour and very personal stories what it means to be a woman and/or a man.

The first and last books on your bookcase.
Which book-case? There are about half a dozen around the house. Ill choose the biggest one which fills an alcove in our bedroom. Top left is James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man which I read many years ago and at the bottom right is Bill Bryson’s Brief History of Nearly Everything which I think I’ve only dipped into.

A novel you have read more than once.
I think I have read Douglas Adams’s Long Dark Teatime of the Soul about five or six times. As a teenager I had a habit of reading it whenever I got stressed and should have been doing something else like revising or writing an essay or dissertation. Sitting here doing this Interview I’m thinking that I really want to go back and read it again.

A book that you started but never finished.
Too many to count. Most recently I think it would be The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride. It is a book which I thought at first I wouldn’t get into because of the quirky broken sentences but it quickly started to make sense and the poetry of the writing was stunning. It is, a masterpiece of a book but the story just became too painful for me, the characters are so self destructive and so real and I could sense them heading towards something dreadful that I just couldn’t bring myself to observe.

Your favourite anthology.
The Rattle Bag by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes was probably one of the first poetry anthologies I ever owned and I loved its diversity and lack of stuffiness. I recently found it again while clearing a book case and happily started randomly opening the pages again.

A book yet-to-be-released which you are looking forward to reading.
I think Leonard Cohen’s The Flame will be an interesting collection – poems and lyrics assembled by Cohen in the few months before his death. He has never been the most cheerful or lighthearted writer – I imagine this collection will be very Cohenesque.

A book that you feel is underrated and deserves more attention.
Grief Is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter – Its another strange book, a mixture of magical realism and lyrical story telling based partly on Ted Hughes’ Crow poems. Beautifully written, sad, funny and uplifting all at the same time. It prompted a sonnet I wrote called “When Grief” but whenever I introduce that poem at readings and ask if anyone knows the book no one ever seems to have read it.

A book with personal resonance.
As a student I picked up a copy of Adam Mars Jones’s The Monopolies of Loss after, I think, hearing an interview with the author on the radio. It’s a deeply emotional book of short stories all centred around different gay men living with and dying from AIDS. A book that so completely immerses you in a world far from your own is always wonderful and the subjects were so poignant and vivid it stuck with me. It also was brilliantly written and the sheer craft of the stories stood out and made me want to write . It’s a book I haven’t read for more than twenty years but it still haunts me, I know where it is on my book shelf and I would never be able to give it away.


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