SM: I am not actually reading anything at the minute. I had started a book, If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio, but we are part way through a clear out and decorating a couple of rooms and where once the bookshelf stood it has now been removed and sold off and all our books, old and new, are in varying piles throughout the house and to be honest I have no idea where the book is now as the piles keep getting moved around and keep changing in stack size and shape, for some unknown reason!
Also I tend to read more intensively and voraciously during the autumn and winter whereas during the spring / summer I lay off and only would take note of a book to look out for to read later in the year. For instance, this book, Divided: Why we are living in an age of Walls by Tim Marshall has caught my eye and like the other books is in a stack somewhere to be read later in the year.
With the boys playing the hurling and football and the garden to attend to, holidays, the warm evenings, out walking and other things along those lines, I really don’t get much time to read. I know I should but to me spring / summers are for outdoor activities … plenty of time to read in the winter.
I watch very little if any television at all and would be quite particular about which programmes I do watch so in the winter I use that time to sit back and read. As soon as all the work is finished and the boys hurling and football season finishes I’ll hoke out the books and put the feet up and read.
TPQ: Best book you have ever read?
SM: I have never read the same book twice as no book has ever gripped me with the need to do so. I’m of the opinion that once read then leave it as it is. I suppose it depends on how the book affects you. Different topics can conjure up varying reactions.
Quite a few I have enjoyed, some more so than others, but I can’t narrow it down to one in particular. There is just too much diversity to pick just one.
Some books are trapped in time and their relevance or potency as a story is greatly diminished. For instance Dante’s Divine Comedy is one of those books or Dickens and his maudlin musings of Victorian England.
Others stand the test of time and are as relevant today as when they were first published. Such as Orwell’s Animal Farm. Funnily, I have never read 1984.
The most memorable book I have read in the last few years is Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada. Orwell is supposedly to have been heavily influenced by it when he wrote 1984. It is based on the Nazis and their control on all aspects of German society during the war. Particularly their reactions and responses to those who diverge or attempt to hold a difference of opinion. You can actually feel the fear prevalent in German society at that time. And it is amazing how a whole society can simply fall asleep while their civil and democratic rights are stripped away … very relevant to what is happening across the world today. It is a very well written novel and the story is skilfully crafted. His writing reminds me of Dostoevsky.
I was unaware until I read the book that the Nazis guillotined those who were found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. Always thought that method of dispatch was solely the domain of the French!
TPQ: A must-read before you die?
SM: No such book exists. If it did I would have read it, besides, I can’t ever for the life of me envisage me lying on my death bed, surrounded by family and friends and the last thoughts or words I utter would be, ‘I should have read that book.’ I can just image all those standing around going, ‘What book, what fuck’n book is he talking about?’
TPQ: A preference for fact or fiction?
SM: I can read both although I tend to stay away from autobiographies … they’re too boring. I did read Roy Keane’s autobiography which is perhaps the only one I have. I have read an extensive 3 volume historical account of the life of Trotsky … that took some time to read! I can’t remember who wrote that but I think it was Isaac Deutscher.
These days my fact reading would be more along the lines of books by journalists such as Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn, books by contemporary writers of the technical age such as Ray Kurzweil, or historical books. I have really liked reading Yuval Noah Harari … what a mind! Recently I have read two books on the Battle of Stalingrad – Stalingrad by Antony Beevor and Breakout at Stalingrad by Heinrich Gerlach. One is an historical account and the other is a novel. Both are excellent.
I really enjoyed The Loneliest Boy in the World: The Last Child of the Great Blasket by Gearoid Cheaist O Cathain … that was also a gift to me.
That would be the sum of my fact reading. I refuse to read factual or fictional accounts of anything to do with the Conflict, from any side as they tend to be anything but factual or even accurate and always have this intangible underlying theme of apologising running through them … I generally stay away from any medium about the Conflict … although I did watch Unquiet Graves and did read your tome but that was just me being pleasant!
TPQ: Favourite female author?
SM: Like the book to read before I die … doesn’t exist. I don’t know what it is but I find that the genres I read are not well written by female authors. I’m not being sexist even though it may seem so it’s just I find that they can’t cover the genre as well as a male author … now I loved Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird which was a 21st birthday present and I have read a few others and really like those books and authors too but generally, no I don’t have one.
TPQ: Favourite male author?
SM: Like the female I don’t have one. I don’t think you can have one as that would be time limiting your reading to a specific period in your life. Authors are coming along all the time so to narrow it down to one for me is impossible. I do like Dostoevsky’s style of writing though. His novels give great insight in to Russian society at the time of writing.
A Berlin Book Tower in memory of the Nazi book burning.
TPQ: First book you ever read?
SM: I have no idea. I think it was a book about Worzel Gummidge when I was about 17 ... no. no. seriously, it was about Worzel Gummidge but it was a compulsory read at primary school. First mature book, probably something from Stephen King or Ludlum or Wilbur Smith (remember him!), or some of those popular writers at the time…..
TPQ: Favourite childhood author?
SM: Didn’t have one as I didn’t read books as a child. My sons have stopped reading now that they are teenagers and have interests elsewhere, although the youngest will read a book still but very rarely the other two will have a book in their hand … shame really but I think they will come back to it at some point in their lives.
When I was a young lad we were members of the local library and would frequent it but I can’t honestly recall reading a book that wasn’t compulsory to do so for school.
TPQ: Any book you point blank refuse to read?
SM: As I say anything to do with the Conflict, either fact or fiction. I can’t stand the wishy washy peace process language used or the severe deviation from historical fact / truth that you find in these books and especially the implied lie that everything was rosy in norn iron before the Provos … despise that. Also refuse to read any books by ex-Provos, INLA, IPLO or the multitude of IRA’s, especially since Adams’ surrender … they tend to be even more vomit material than the Unionist drivel. I would never ever contemplate reading anything by Adams, Morrison or any of that clique … are you serious?
I did read Divorcing Jack by Colin Bateman which was appallingly written and dreadful to read. Which is what most of them are. I did like Jammy Dodger by Kevin Smith which I recommended on the Quill. It was very witty and tended to steer clear of the Conflict and I suppose that’s why I enjoyed it.
TPQ: Any author you point blank refuse to read?
SM: I have never read any of the so called classics such as those by Dickens, Shelly, Bronte’s or anything along those lines and point blankly refuse to read the Irish classics. Nothing could induce uncontrollable vomiting as much as having one of those thrown down in front of you and being told you have to read that as it is hailed as one the great classics … in fact I think I have only read what constitutes the Russian classics. I tried Ulysses by Joyce once but then I woke up dead one morning! ngs.
TPQ: Pick a book to give to somebody so that they would more fully understand you.
SM: That’s not easy to narrow down to one book. I think I’m a consortium of books rather than just one…..mmmm…. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist by Robert Tressell ( I think he was Irish. Hope that doesn’t make it a classic!), Catcher in the Rye by J.D.Salinger, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, The Wasp Factory by Ian Banks, Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series, Children of the Dead End by Patrick MacGill, A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, The Kite Flyer by Khaled Hosseini, Life of Pi, by Yann Martel and To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee. I will end with Dostoevsky and Crime and Punishment.
Now if you ask me this again next week I could very well produce a different consortium!
TPQ: Last book you gave as a present?
SM: Eleanor Oiliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman - it was part of a Christmas present I gave to ‘She who must be obeyed.’….she always hails my choice!
TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?
SM: His Bloody Project by Graeme McCrae Burnett. It tells the historically fictional story of a triple murder committed by a 17 year old crofter in the latter half of the 19th century and is based in Scotland. An excellent read and leaves the reader wondering ‘Did he?’
Maybe this has already been made into a film, I don’t know!