What do you think about the fact that the Harry Ransom Center is home to your works?
Nine parts delight to one part regret. The writing life throws up ton upon ton of paper archive, some of it ephemeral, mundane and of little interest except to the driest of academics, much of it revealing and informative, and a bit of it intensely personal. I waved goodbye to the first two categories with an easy heart, not in the least worried that here was another literary archive being shipped off to America rather than being kept in Britain, but there were family photographs and letters which I will miss. Nevertheless, it is comforting to know that those items will enjoy a temperature-controlled longevity in the world's best and most attentive literary collection and in a town and state which I love and plan to visit once in a while. Will I have the self-regarding cheek to ask to see my own archive, I wonder?
When visiting the Ransom Center's website what would you want to explore?
I already know the answer to this question, as in early 2008, I was in Austin and toured the Ransom Center. I asked to see Coleridge, Blake, and T.H. White notebooks, not because they are my only favourite writers (indeed, it could be argued that White is a minor figure) but because they are all men with whom I sympathise personally. Holding their handwritten and hand-illustrated work was thrilling and moving. I even shed a tear. It was especially touching to see T. H. White's mostly awful paintings, testimony not to his artistic talents but to his depression-fighting determination to have a go at anything, all styles, rather than feel sorry for himself.
If someone isn't entirely familiar with your work where would you suggest that they begin?
This is a question I dread. It's partly British reticence and partly my personal secretiveness, but I have not once recommended that anyone reads one of my novels. And I'm too long in the tooth to change my ways. But I will, with only some embarrassment, steer tenderfoots towards a non-fiction piece, The Secrets of My Success (a downloadable Amazon Short). It's a series of sarcastic letters of advice to new writers from a novelist who surely is a bit too grumpy to be me. But it does give my game away, and it does introduce my books obliquely. Then the choice of which to read, if any, will be yours.
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