Brought to Book: Paul Lynch - ‘Each one of us is a labyrinth of complexity’

‘It sounds strange to say, but when I read Don DeLillo’s Underworld in my early twenties, I just knew I would be a writer’

Paul Lynch: “It still annoys me that nobody ever mentioned Hemingway to me. Or Sartre. It would have been cool to get the cliches out of the way before 20.” Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Paul Lynch: “It still annoys me that nobody ever mentioned Hemingway to me. Or Sartre. It would have been cool to get the cliches out of the way before 20.” Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Fri, Jul 4, 2014, 13:32

Paul Lynch’s The Black Snow is out now, published by Quercus. His first novel was Red Sky in Morning. He will be appearing at the Dalkey Festival on Saturday, June 21st, at 3pm at the Masonic Hall. Tickets €10.

What was the first book to make an impression on you?

The Prisoner of Zenda. I read an abridged version aged about nine, I think. I can’t remember a single bloody thing, but I have never forgotten that first feeling of being sumo-wrestled by a great book.

What was your favourite book as a child?

I read every single Hardy Boys book except for one. It could not be had for love nor bribery. I can see it now on eBay for €3.79. I’m not going to buy it.

And what is your favourite book or books now?

Some favourites include Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo and Austerlitz by WG Sebald. Both are endlessly rewarding.

What is your favourite quotation?

“Time dissipates to shining ether the solid angularity of facts” – Emerson

Who is your favourite fictional character?

Judge Holden in Blood Meridian is quite unforgettable.

Who is the most under-rated Irish author?

Kate O’Brien’s The Ante-Room is full of wonderful writing.

Which do you prefer – ebooks or the traditional print version?

Where are you going to charge your ebook during an apocalypse? The world might go to shit but I’ll still be able to read Heaney.

What is the most beautiful book you own?

A Folio Society twin edition of WB Yeats poetry and Jack B Yeats paintings given to me by my mother for my 21st.

Where and how do you write?

At my desk in my study at home. I keep regular(ish) hours.

What book changed the way you think about fiction?

It sounds strange to say, but when I read Don DeLillo’s Underworld in my early twenties, I just knew I would be a writer. I have never understood why. Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian had a similar effect on me. I could feel the sentences of that book rewiring my DNA.

What is the most research you have done for a book?

I prefer to imagine it rather than research it but research must be done. My third book is requiring a lot more research than I am used to. I will abide.

What book influenced you the most?

The poets I read as a teenager went in much deeper than I had previously realised.

What book would you give to a friend’s child on their 18th birthday?

Arthur Koestler’s The Sleepwalkers – a fantastic history of intellectual thought from the Greeks onwards.

What book do you wish you had read when you were young?

An awful lot of things. It still annoys me that nobody ever mentioned Hemingway to me. Or Sartre. It would have been cool to get the cliches out of the way before 20.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

You don’t become a writer because you want to. You become a writer because you have to.

What weight do you give reviews?

There is, perhaps, nothing more irritating than the critic who strikes a superior tone while failing to understand the work.

Where do you see the publishing industry going?

The demise of the novel has been greatly exaggerated – usually by journalists who don’t read novels but prefer to talk about them.

What writing trends have struck you lately?

I couldn’t say.

What lessons have you learned about life from reading?

That one should be suspicious of theory in general and ideology in particular. That each one of us is a labyrinth of complexity and fiction is perhaps the best way to understand this.

What has being a writer taught you?

That the daimonion is in charge, not me. I have nothing to do with it. I have no idea where any of this stuff comes from.

Which writers, living or dead, would you invite to your dream dinner party?

It would have to be Shakespeare, wouldn’t it? On his own. With an early modern English translator, just to smooth things along. Your tale, sir, would cure deafness.

What is the funniest scene you’ve read?

Tom McCarthy’s Remainder is a glorious hoot. If you are reading this, Tom, get in touch. I promised to send you a book back but didn’t.

What is your favourite word?

You must whisper it: susurrus.

If you were to write a historical novel, which event or figure would be your subject?

Erm, I have already done so. Red Sky in Morning took a good, hard, imaginative look at Duffy’s Cut in Pennsylvania in 1832. I hate the term historical novel, by the way. All historical novels are as contemporary as novels set in 2013.

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