Jonathan Gornall is a journalist and lives in London. He has a reasonably new microwave....
After finding himself single again at 47 Jonathan Gornall began writing about his new adventures in Microwave Man, a column in The Times described by his editor as 'Bridget Jones's older, sleazier brother'. Microwave Man, the book, is out this month.
Here Jonathan tells all about the papers he reads, if the printed word will endure and ahem, his biggest influence.
Will the printed word endure?
Yes. Or no. I doubt it. At the risk of sounding like the Wiesner Professor of Media Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the only reason we aren't yet getting all our written information exclusively in some or other digital form is that the older denizens of society (including me) have yet to fully kick the admittedly sensuous habit of handling and possessing the written word in book form, a frankly archaic method of communication that runs counter to the trend for the digital democratisation of information. To a Fifties child like me I suppose it's regrettable, but then how many trees does it take to make a PDF?
Which newspaper do you read?
The Times, naturally, although - and equally naturally, as it takes at least 20 minutes to run to my nearest newsagent - only online. And, thanks to the miracle of the digital word, all the others, including the New York Times. And the News-Gazette in Osceola, Florida, where absolutely nothing ever happens, guaranteed.
Who/What is your biggest influence?
After my penis, Neil Clayton, my English teacher at Woolverstone Hall, an experimental ILEA boarding school in Suffolk for inner city kids. Largely because he was about the only one who didn't write 'Jonathan is wasting his time and other people's' on my end-of-term reports. (Although I was. Especially in chemistry and maths.) And don't bother thinking of sending your kids there. Margaret Thatcher closed it and it's now a private school for girls, hurrah!
What books are you reading at the moment?
Finally getting round to Hitler's Willing Executioners, by Daniel Goldhagen, because I'm a sucker for objective history and there's not a lot of it about; When She Was Bad by Patricia Pearson, because I'm also a sucker for the flip side of accepted wisdom; and I always have a few gripping, ripping-yarn style books on the go, currently including Swimming to Antarctica, by Lynne Cox. And I never tire of Heavy Weather Sailing by Adlard Coles. Graham Greene and Joseph Conrad aside, I try to avoid fiction because, in my experience, real life is sufficiently far-fetched.
What books did you read as a child?
What, all of them? It wasn't a huge library at Woolverstone, but still. But the list included The Wind in the Willows and Animal Farm (both of which I still refuse to accept have a metaphorical bone in their bodies); We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea and pretty much anything else by Arthur Ransome (chiefly for the adventures but not least for the snigger value of such characters as Titty); A Fighting Chance by ocean rowers Chay Blyth and John Ridgway; And Mao's Little Red Book, which for some reason was in the library. For a while, everyone was either a Paper Tiger or an Iron Tiger. The Bean-Curd Tiger never really caught on. Oh, and The Golden Ass, by Lucius Apuleius, the only Latin work of fiction to have survived intact and, because it was so filthy, one of the best-read books at Woolverstone.
Which literary character would you most like to meet?
Other than Photis, the instructive maid from the Golden Ass, anyone from Greene or Conrad.
Which authors do you most admire?
Those who can make me laugh, because any idiot can make me think or cry. And Ian McEwan (if envy is the same as admiration), who also fell under Neil Clayton's spell at Woolverstone Hall.
Where/When do you do most of your writing?
Where? On a laptop on the big round table in my dinging room/office overlooking the beautiful River Frome in Somerset. When? Shortly before any deadline and only after pulling the curtains to shut out the distracting view.