Inside the Cover: interview with Craig Brown

As we bound towards this year’s Henley Literary Festival, a few favourite authors from this year’s line-up reveal their literary loves, top tips for writing and ones-to-watch for 2017…

Here we speak to Craig Brown, who returns to the Festival in October with his new book, 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret – a portrait of our most talked-about royal encompassing fame and art, snobbery and deference, fact and fiction.

Can you remember the first book you read? What was it?

Excuse My Tail – a book about a monkey. I spent the next five years pleading (unsuccessfully) with my parents for a monkey of my own.

If could get your three favourite authors on at a literary festival – and you can be the interviewer or in the front row – who would you choose?

A.N. Wilson; Frances Wilson; Philip Roth.

The festival is held not long before Christmas; what books from 2017 (apart from your own) would you give as a present?

Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner; David Jones: Engraver, Soldier, Painter, Poet by Thomas Dilworth; Looking to Heaven by Stanley Spencer edited by John Spencer.

Which fictional literary character has made the most lasting impression on you?

Hyman Kaplan.

You are in charge of Henley Children’s Literary Festival – who would be your first choice of author?

Harry Hill.

Who played the greatest role in you becoming a writer?

My English teacher, Christopher Dixon.

Book festivals are enjoying a boom these days; why do you think that is?

Writers have got fed up with writing; readers have got fed up with reading. Literary festivals allow writers to talk and readers to listen.

Is there a book that has made you laugh out loud, or one that has made you cry?

The Education of Hyman Kaplan for laughter. Endpoint by John Updike for tears.

What is the most memorable question you’ve been asked at a festival?

“How on earth are we going to get Will Hutton to stop talking and leave the stage?”

It’s Desert Island Discs time… what book – apart from the Bible or Complete Works of Shakespeare – would you take to your tropical paradise ?

Mr Palomar by Italo Calvino.

What’s the best bit of advice you gave been given about writing?

I once interviewed Sean O’Faolain and he passed on advice that WB Yeats had told him as a young man: “Write yourself into yourself.”

Which young writers should we be reading?

Ben Lerner; Sam Leith; Zadie Smith.

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