TPQ: What are you currently reading?
MP: Bob Spitz's biography of the Beatles. Style is a bit clunky at times, as he tries to be a writer, and it takes about 300 pages just to get to Love Me Do, but it's a good read nonetheless. Detailed, but not obsessively so, like Mark Lewisohn's doorstop; and Spitz mostly treads a measured path through the competing versions, so this account may represent something approaching a sort-of 'truth' ... maybe. Read it alongside Ian McDonald's brilliant, spot-on evaluation of the music, Revolution In The Head.
TPQ: Best and worst books you have ever read?
MP: Best: At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien. I still wonder at the endless hyperbole, and 'quare conundrum' stuff, engendered by The Third Policeman, when his first novel is far funnier, and more inventive. And much less of a slog.
Worst: Chariots Of The Gods; Was God An Astronaut? by Erich Von Daniken. He was imprisoned for embezzlement, fraud, and forgery, but we mustn't let a marked inclination to fantasise in his personal life lure us into concluding he might do just the same in his writing.
TPQ: Book most cherished as a child?
MP: Just William series by Richmal Crompton. The funny, middle-class childhood to which I still aspire.
TPQ: Favourite Childhood author?
MP: Crompton. She also wrote a series about a younger, slightly lesser William, called Jimmy. Her William output was under contract to a publisher, so in order to write William tales for a well-paying newspaper she reinvented him as Jimmy.
TPQ: First book to really own you?
MP: A tie: Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan / Dracula by Bram Stoker. Behan got me all fired up, then Stoker scared the hell out of me.
TPQ: Favourite male and female author?
MP: Male: Auberon Waugh. I'll never forgive Polly Toynbee for the vicious Guardian obituary / hatchet-job she did on him. He was joking, Polly ... !
Female: Patricia Highsmith. Leave aside Ripley for a moment. If you're new to her, start with This Sweet Sickness, or Edith's Diary, or The Blunderer, or The Glass Cell, or A Dog's Ransom, or Deep Water, or A Suspension Of Mercy ...
A Berlin Book Tower in memory of the Nazi book burning.
MP: Moderation in all things.
TPQ: Biography, autobiography or memoir that most impressed you?
MP: Khrushchev: The Man and His Era by William Taubman. Marvellous. Big, complex man deserves this big, accessible treatment.
TPQ: Any author or book you point blank refuse to read?
MP: Charles Bukowski. All the men were drunk and all the women were steaming.
TPQ: A book to share with somebody so that they would more fully understand you?
MP: Another tie: Animal Farm by George Orwell / Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert
TPQ: Last book you gave as a present?
MP: The Sleepwalkers by Arthur Koestler. Crazy name, crazy guy. But where would the early John Banville have been without this rattling good yarn about the vagaries, happenstance and randomness of scientific discovery?
TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?
MP: Tarantula by Bob Dylan.
TPQ: A must read you intend getting to before you die?
MP: Gibbon, I suppose. But, at my time of life, it'll have to be an abridgement of an abridgement ...
➽Michael Praetorius spent his working life in education and libraries. Now retired, he does a little busking in Belfast ... when he can get a pitch.