Chapter Four: A Human World Inside A World of Numbers…
…in which I find myself in the hallowed environs of University College London; specifically, in Alex Preston’s office where I battle against a mammoth hangover to ask him about how religion affects us, writing fiction about the financial crisis, and which of L Ron Hubbard’s books are worth reading.
As usual, you can also listen to this episode on iTunes.[audio http://bookish.jellycast.com/files/audio/preston%20complete.MP3]
Who is Alex?
I first met Alex Preston at the award ceremony for the Manchester Fiction Prize in 2011. We’d both been shortlisted and had shown up for a surreal evening of posh frocks and mind-bending sums of prize-money. By then he’d already published This Bleeding City, a novel set around the credit crunch, which was very much informed by his time spent working in The City and received as one of the few genuinely successful attempts at handling the financial crisis in fiction. Since then he’s published his second novel, The Revelations, which focuses on a group of young people in London looking for meaning in a religion whose true motivations and influence seem to elude them. I’d come directly from my day-job as an admin worker to that award ceremony, wearing my creased suit, my head still full of Excel formulas, exhausted. Now I was suddenly surrounded by clever, eccentric book-people, all directing free wine and unanimous praise my way. I spent most of the evening talking to Alex, my ally of normality and a really nice guy.
When I met Alex again to record this podcast I was very hungover. So hungover, in fact, that I singularly failed to ask him to provide a reading of his work to close the podcast (as is traditional). Instead, for literally no reason other than I think it’s a lovely song, I’ve opted to end on Billy Cotton and His Band’s ‘The March Hare’, recorded from one of my great grandfather’s gramophone records.
Richard Holloway – The former Bishop of Edinburgh whose recent memoir, Leaving Alexandria, documents his loss of faith.
Justin Cartwright – British novelist whose latest book, Other People’s Money, relates the story of a family whose fortunes are intertwined with that of those who look after their finances.
Sebastian Faulks – A Week In December. Faulks’s stab at a recession novel. It hasn’t been well received.
Anthony Trollope – Famously reviled on its original publication, Trollope’s best known work, The Way We Live Now, is now seen as the classic state-of-the-nation novel.
L Ron Hubbard – Science-fiction writer who let praise go to his head.
Frank Norris – One of America’s great naturalistic chroniclers in fiction, his best known work is McTeague.
Emilé Zole – The French novelist who set the model for the public intellectual in France, his best known work remains Germinal.
Martin Amis – Author of, amongst other books, Money, a classic comic novel of financial excess and existential anguish.
Hopefully, the Billy Cotton record being a pre-vinyl one, there’s no issue of copyright but, if a descendant or representative of Mr Cotton is listening and takes issue, let me know and I’ll snip the music off the end.
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