En Bref with Paul Murray

Next up in En Bref is our favourite Irishman and superbly talented funny/serious novelist Paul Murray. Here’s Paul in full flow at his recent terrific event for The Mark and Void, and below are his  answers to our (very) brief questions.


Who is your favourite novelist of all time?
There are several writers I’ve come to subsequently that I’m in awe of—Elena Ferrante, for instance, was a recent discovery. But I started to read Thomas Pynchon at what you might call an impressionable age—I was 20, and had just emerged from the hothouse of the Irish secondary school system; his work felt radical and other and resistant to the predations of education. Also, none of my friends knew who he was, so I felt like he was mine in a way that Beckett or DFW, for instance, weren’t.
What is the last book you read that made you laugh?
Catherine Lacey’s novel Nobody is Ever Missing is very funny, as well as being a heartbreaking portrait of isolation and breakdown; it’s like The Bell Jar as told by Jerry Seinfeld. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer is an uncategorisable work of genius—I guess to continue with the glib comparisons you might describe it as Slacker meets Snow Crash. It’s also hilarious.
What is the last book you read that made you cry?
I don’t know if I cried, but I did audibly gasp when Emma Bovary took poison, even though I’d read the book before.
If you could require the leader of your country to read one book, what would it be?
The Essays of Michel de Montaigne. Montaigne used to wear a medallion around his neck inscribed with the words Que sais-je? meaning, What do I know? Can you imagine what the world would be like if our leaders actually accepted their limited knowledge? Being leader of a country should require a mandatory Que sais-je medallion.
What is your favourite sentence from any book ever?
I just finished reading The Wild Palms by William Faulkner, which is hard going, but has the killer line “Between grief and nothing, I will take grief”.
Merci, Paul! Come back soon!
The Mark and the Void
Paul Murray is the author of An Evening of Long Goodbyes, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award in 2003, and Skippy Dies, which was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award in 2010 and (in the United States) the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Mark and the Void is his third novel. He lives in Dublin.

About Laura

Laura Keeling is Events and Communications Manager at Shakespeare and Company.