Christopher Owens answers thirteen questions in a Booker's Dozen.


TPQ: What are you currently reading?

CO: Wise Blood (Flannery O'Connor). Proper Southern Gothic material. So far I'm thoroughly impressed at the imagination on display. Where does a teenage girl from Georgia get the inspiration for such twisted material?

TPQ: Best book you have ever read?

CO: There are many titles that compete for this honour, but it will forever remain Resurrection Man (Eoin McNamee). Not only because the book itself is an absorbing piece of neo-noir that blurs the boundaries between history and fiction, but because it taught me (at the tender age of twelve) that there was an awful lot that had happened in my country that wasn't being openly discussed and, as the Good Friday Agreement was being signed, the contrast between the two fascinated me.

TPQ: A must-read before you die?

CO: There's a couple: Ulysses, Gravity's Rainbow and the loathsome Simon Heffer's biography of Enoch Powell, Like the Roman. This is due to their length, their reputation and (in the case of the first two), their seeming impenetrability. I would really need to take two weeks off for each and consume them as if they were a full time job in themselves. You can't just lightly read them or dip in and out whenever the occasion allows. As a result, I'll probably not get the chance to read them until I head to that mythical desert island.

TPQ: A preference for fact or fiction?

CO: I don't have a preference. Both of them function in their own way, and I appreciate what both can bring to the reader whenever done correctly. Of course there are people out there who will only read one or the other, citing that they either don't have time for fiction or find fact based stuff too depressing. Personally, I find such attitudes incomprehensible. A book like The Wasp Factory can tell you just as much about a particular mindset as does A Secret History of the IRA. So why deny yourself both?

TPQ: Favourite female author?

CO: There's a couple. Lydia Lunch for her unrestrained tales of debauchery. Kathy Acker for her approach on deconstructing texts and framing them in such a way that they antagonise as much as reveal a hidden truth. Ursula Le Guin for her imagination and speculation.

TPQ: Favourite male author?

CO: Bret Easton Ellis for his detached, hallucinogenic yet semi-realistic style. Charles Bukowski for his honesty. JG Ballard for his realistic outrageousness.

TPQ: First book you ever read?

CO: It would have been When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs at the age of six. Utterly heart-breaking stuff, because it's a simple tale of an elderly English couple who survive a nuclear war. But there are other layers in there as well, such as their nostalgic reminiscences about WWII which has blinded them to the horrors of war.

TPQ: Favourite childhood author?

CO: Not in childhood but, as a teenager, I loved Stephen King. And for good reason as he's a great writer. He's someone who falls in and out of favour with critics who can't seem to decide if they like the fact that his books are basically more amphetamine charged renditions of the old penny dreadfuls, mixed in with B-movie influences and the more fantastical elements of pulp/comic book. But as a thirteen year old, his stuff hits the mark perfectly.

TPQ: Any book you point blank refuse to read?

CO: The Canterbury Tales. Just. Say. No.

TPQ: Any author you point blank refuse to read?

CO: J.R.R Tolkien and C.S Lewis. I've never been a fan of epic fantasies, and that these two are consistently held up as the deans of such a genre is enough to put me off them.

TPQ: Pick a book to give to somebody so that they would more fully understand you.

CO: I don't think one book would be able to sum up my tastes and outlook on the world. So I'd have to hand them a few. And it would be the obvious greatest books ever written (Resurrection Man, The Butcher Boy, Post Office, Naked Lunch, Last Exit to Brooklyn). But then I'd never hear from the person again!

TPQ: Last book you gave as a present?

CO: I tend not to give books as presents, as what I think someone should read clashes very badly with what someone else wants to read. £20 always works as a present.

TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?

CO: Angels (Denis Johnson). It would be like an existentialist Cape Fear.

⏩  Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland.


Booker's Dozen @ Christopher Owens

Christopher Owens answers thirteen questions in a Booker's Dozen.


TPQ: What are you currently reading?

CO: Wise Blood (Flannery O'Connor). Proper Southern Gothic material. So far I'm thoroughly impressed at the imagination on display. Where does a teenage girl from Georgia get the inspiration for such twisted material?

TPQ: Best book you have ever read?

CO: There are many titles that compete for this honour, but it will forever remain Resurrection Man (Eoin McNamee). Not only because the book itself is an absorbing piece of neo-noir that blurs the boundaries between history and fiction, but because it taught me (at the tender age of twelve) that there was an awful lot that had happened in my country that wasn't being openly discussed and, as the Good Friday Agreement was being signed, the contrast between the two fascinated me.

TPQ: A must-read before you die?

CO: There's a couple: Ulysses, Gravity's Rainbow and the loathsome Simon Heffer's biography of Enoch Powell, Like the Roman. This is due to their length, their reputation and (in the case of the first two), their seeming impenetrability. I would really need to take two weeks off for each and consume them as if they were a full time job in themselves. You can't just lightly read them or dip in and out whenever the occasion allows. As a result, I'll probably not get the chance to read them until I head to that mythical desert island.

TPQ: A preference for fact or fiction?

CO: I don't have a preference. Both of them function in their own way, and I appreciate what both can bring to the reader whenever done correctly. Of course there are people out there who will only read one or the other, citing that they either don't have time for fiction or find fact based stuff too depressing. Personally, I find such attitudes incomprehensible. A book like The Wasp Factory can tell you just as much about a particular mindset as does A Secret History of the IRA. So why deny yourself both?

TPQ: Favourite female author?

CO: There's a couple. Lydia Lunch for her unrestrained tales of debauchery. Kathy Acker for her approach on deconstructing texts and framing them in such a way that they antagonise as much as reveal a hidden truth. Ursula Le Guin for her imagination and speculation.

TPQ: Favourite male author?

CO: Bret Easton Ellis for his detached, hallucinogenic yet semi-realistic style. Charles Bukowski for his honesty. JG Ballard for his realistic outrageousness.

TPQ: First book you ever read?

CO: It would have been When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs at the age of six. Utterly heart-breaking stuff, because it's a simple tale of an elderly English couple who survive a nuclear war. But there are other layers in there as well, such as their nostalgic reminiscences about WWII which has blinded them to the horrors of war.

TPQ: Favourite childhood author?

CO: Not in childhood but, as a teenager, I loved Stephen King. And for good reason as he's a great writer. He's someone who falls in and out of favour with critics who can't seem to decide if they like the fact that his books are basically more amphetamine charged renditions of the old penny dreadfuls, mixed in with B-movie influences and the more fantastical elements of pulp/comic book. But as a thirteen year old, his stuff hits the mark perfectly.

TPQ: Any book you point blank refuse to read?

CO: The Canterbury Tales. Just. Say. No.

TPQ: Any author you point blank refuse to read?

CO: J.R.R Tolkien and C.S Lewis. I've never been a fan of epic fantasies, and that these two are consistently held up as the deans of such a genre is enough to put me off them.

TPQ: Pick a book to give to somebody so that they would more fully understand you.

CO: I don't think one book would be able to sum up my tastes and outlook on the world. So I'd have to hand them a few. And it would be the obvious greatest books ever written (Resurrection Man, The Butcher Boy, Post Office, Naked Lunch, Last Exit to Brooklyn). But then I'd never hear from the person again!

TPQ: Last book you gave as a present?

CO: I tend not to give books as presents, as what I think someone should read clashes very badly with what someone else wants to read. £20 always works as a present.

TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?

CO: Angels (Denis Johnson). It would be like an existentialist Cape Fear.

⏩  Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland.


14 comments:

  1. Thanks for this Christopher - worked well and drew a good readership

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  2. Thanks for asking me. Usually, people just see what I read and make a note to avoid it!

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  3. Stphen King literally sat with a bowl of speed and a bowl of weed and knocked out books by the dozen! lol

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    Replies
    1. I bet you he didn't. Like many of these rock/pop stars; their 'wild' or rough upbringing is usually manufactured. Just saying.

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  4. That's part of what makes most of the early ones so great! Only a mind under the influence could dream up something like 'Cujo' and 'Christine.' It's no surprise that, when he got cleaned up, the quality started to dip substantially. 'Gerald's Game', 'Dolores Claiborne', 'Bag of Bones'? Utter bilge.

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  5. Wolfe, he nearly died writing Cujo. He took so many drugs that it was enough to kill several elephants, only a big intervention from his family stopped him.

    Christopher, weirdly the books I like the most from him are the novellas Apt Pupil, Rita Hayworth and the Shawkshank Redemption, Stand by me (The Body) and later he wrote a Game of Thrones style book (though many years before) called The Eye of the Dragon. Trying to find a copy for my son to read. Made a big impact on me when I was a kid.

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    Replies
    1. They are great, something really human in them and proof that he can do far more than just pulp style novels. Funny you should mention 'The Eye of the Dragon' as the response to it from the fans partially inspired 'Misery!'

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  6. Steve R, allegedly. Just like Ian Fleming, Frederick forsythe, j k Rowling etc, their life narratives are heavily garnished.
    Rather than having got 'cleaned up' leading to his 'dip' I would suggest the help he got has moved on. Btw, I know a right few people putting all sorts of drugs in their bodies and really living a 'wild' life.......and they are fxxking useless at almost everything! Nothing will convince me that these so called famous folk that did they same are any different. The difference probably is that they were chosen to do a job. Kinda like the politicians that are chosen to be the front for the Wizards behind the curtain.

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    1. Wolfe you are probably spot on, drugs are everywhere. We wouldn't have great music, poetry, art if it wasn't for the consumption of 'something'.

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    2. William Burroughs and Charles Bukowski were reputed to be nowhere near as debauched as their reputations suggested. It sounds great to the press.

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    3. Christopher - and Brendan Behan?

      I didn't know King was stoned when he was writing the stuff. I used to love it I jail - particularly on the night the OU exam was over - always October: chilly evening, pipes on and a Steven King book. One of the better memories of the place. Oddly enough I found Christine very poor and loved the Dolores Claiborne one, which I read in 1996. four years after I got out. It was the only one of his I have read since prison.

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  7. Christopher, I doubt Hunter S Thompson imbibed quite so much either, he would have died taking half as much stuff, though his description of the effects are spot on in places.

    AM- King hated Carrie too. His wife forced him to continue with it!

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    Replies
    1. Steve R, I would say you're bang on regarding Thompson. I think the trick that guys like him, Keasey and Leary were able to pull was that they found a balance between hedonism and work life, downplaying the latter while inflating the former. Very clever, and very lucrative as well in terms of work!

      He certainly did hate Carrie. Whenever I worked in a school library, that was one of the most popular books for teenage girls to read, that and the Harry Potter books.

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  8. AM, I thought Behan developed serious health problems because of his drinking. Didn't he have a leg lopped off, or am I confusing him with Jeffrey Bernard?

    He certainly was. Read 'On Writing', an excellent book for anyone thinking of doing some creative writing which also works as a kind of memoir. Have to agree, October/November are always the best times to read his stuff. I've been meaning to dig out 'It' for 1st October and finish it on Halloween night.

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