What book would you most like to see turned into a movie or TV show that hasn’t already been adapted?
The book I would most like to see adapted for film is “Flashman in the Great Game.” I know Kevin Kline would have made a superb Flashman, so I approached George MacDonald Fraser to see if he would let me have a go at it. But, understandably, he wanted to write it himself, and I didn’t want to be a producer.
Do you count any books as comfort reads? Or guilty pleasures?
My comfort reads are Simenon, Alan Furst, Kingsley Amis, James Thurber, Stephen Leacock, Sue Grafton, “Assholes,” by Aaron James, Steve Martin, Raymond Chandler and P. D. James.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
For dinner, I would invite David Hume, George Eliot and Mark Twain. Hume not just for his astonishing insights, but because he was an utterly splendid human being. I’d love to hear how he faced death so gracefully. And we could play billiards. I’d invite Mary Ann Evans because her writings seem to arise from an astonishing intelligence, which I find quite daunting. I’ve often had this reaction to writers of nonfiction, but never before to a novelist. Also, she could tell me whether Herbert Spencer was “hot.” And Twain, because he said “Wagner’s music is much better than it sounds,” which I think is the greatest joke ever made. Twain is never witty in a fastidious way; there’s always something gutsy about him, unlike Oscar.
What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?
“The Righteous Mind,” by Jonathan Haidt, is the most important book I’ve come across about the ever-advancing polarization of all aspects of our world. Its clarity is stunning. The first 100 pages would make a great first-year psychology course.
However, it’s sobering to have to accept the preponderant influence of emotion over what passes for our powers of reasoning.
You’re taking the red pill when you open this marvelous book.
A comparable red pill book is “Real Magic,” by Dean Radin, chief scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences. If you are skeptical of psi phenomena, start with Pages 95 and 96. They will knock your socks off, and a much more interesting world will open up.