Jonathan Taylor is an author, editor, lecturer and critic. His books include the novels Melissa (Salt, 2015) and Entertaining Strangers (Salt, 2012), both shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award, the poetry collection Cassandra Complex (Shoestring, 2018), and the memoir Take Me Home: Parkinson’s, My Father, Myself (Granta, 2007). He is director of the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. Originally from Stoke-on-Trent, he now lives in Leicestershire with his wife, the poet Maria Taylor, and their twin daughters, Miranda and Rosalind.
Q: If you could travel in the past, which one of the great writers would you like to meet and why?
A: Edgar Allan Poe: I bet he’d be a great (if very dangerous) drinking partner, with a wicked sense of humour. Oh, and Thomas Carlyle, because he’d be good for a slanging match (a bit like the Monty Python sketch, where the guy pays for an argument). Oh, and Shirley Jackson: because I can’t think of anyone else who can scare you and make you laugh in the same sentence – except, perhaps, Poe.
Q: What is the first book you remember reading, or being read to as a child?
A: I learnt to read very late, and did it through music, through poetry: I learnt the rhythms of Dr Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham and could recite most of it, which helped me match the sounds to the strange hieroglyphics on the page. I think I still read musically, rather than word by word, when a book takes me over.
Q: What superpower would you like to have and why?
A: According to my twins, I already have one superpower: they say I make the best macaroni cheese in the world. Quite rightly, they’re far more interested in that than my writing. They tried to put it on my Wikipedia page, but the killjoys wouldn’t let them.
Author picture © Nick Rawle Photography
1. ‘I’ll cane you, boy.’ The voice – baritone, resonant, strangely sorrowful – comes from the school library. The word ‘boy’ is elongated, with a slight flourish upwards, like a verbal serif, ‘I’ll cane you, booooooyyy.’ The new first-year boy hurries past the library door, trembling, near tears: what kind of place is this, …