It’s been a while since there’s been a “Meet the Bookworm” feature on the blog, so it’s great to introduce you to Jay Harley, they come from Worcestershire and have offered up some great ideas with their answers. Say hello to Jay everyone! 🙂
What age did you get into reading? I loved reading from 4 or 5 – I remember moving from my mum making up stories at bedtime to getting deep into books I couldn’t put down.
What’s the first book that really struck a chord with you and why? The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler kind of changed my life. I had already identified hard with George in The Famous Five, but – (without spoiling the ending!) Tyke was a revelation to me. There was also a TV version and it made a nice change from somewhat obsessively reading Roald Dahl books.
Do you have a favourite genre? I read and listen to a lot, so I love loads of different things. Anything gay, queer or trans wins for me, such as Rubyfruit Jungle and Stone Butch Blues. I really love when speculative fiction has something interesting to say; anything by Margaret Atwood or Becky Chambers, plus Nora Roberts’ Chronicle of the One series and Station Eleven. Genre is probably less important to me than relationships, and I love sad books, so anything by Willy Vlautin I can read over and over. I also love series, such as Elly Griffiths Ruth Galloway novels (crime), Charlaine Harris’ True Blood (vampires), or Claire McGowan’s series (Irish crime) or a big, fat trilogy, such as The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen or The Folk of the Air by Holly Black.
Is there a fictional character or characters that you can relate to? I really related to Becky Chambers first book The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – not one specific character but the blend – and I’m really moved by the way she explores outsiders, across people from different species. I also really enjoyed Emma Jane Unsworth’s Adults, because it’s funny but also really delves into the nourishment we can gain from social interactions online, which are often dismissed as trivial by people who don’t understand them.
What’s the worst book you’ve ever read and why? I strongly remember throwing Stephen King’s It across a room when I’d reached page one-thousand of about twelve-hundred. That’s how frustrated I was, but I did see how it ends across the movie franchises. I have OCD so I very often have to finish books even when I’m really not enjoying them. I took three run-ups to Kate Mosse’s Burning Chambers, but just couldn’t get into it. I did listen to all forty-six hours of the audiobook of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, which I enjoyed at first but went off about halfway through, because I just don’t know why even speculative fiction needs to be about the rape of young girls – can’t we imagine something else please?
What’s your favourite book to screen adaptation and why? I have a few actually, which is nice, because for decades I strongly disliked all adaptations except for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I worked in movies and TV for a long time, so books remain my hobby and my love, while for many years TV and film were ruined for me! But I saw Call Me By Your Name before I read the book and it was an almost transcendental experience – blew my mind, such a perfect reminiscence of young love. Soon after, I saw The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which I’d been hotly anticipating as it is directed by Desiree Akhavan. This time I read the book first, was really impressed by the characterisation and I thought the adaptation was one of the cleverest I’ve ever seen – selective but so evocative. You can watch and read in either order and the book and the film really complement each other.
What was the last book you read? This week I have read Find Me by André Aciman, which is the follow-up to Call Me By Your Name. I didn’t like how it started and I wasn’t convinced by the ending but there is a lovely bit in the middle. I also read the Secret Barrister, which I found to be gendered in a really painful, stereotypical way, The Last Leaves Falling, which I also didn’t enjoy, but then I read Adults which was a blast.
What are you currently reading? At the moment I am finishing Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile, which is one of the saddest, most wonderful books I’ve ever read. I’m listening to Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, which seems excellent so far. I’ve been reading Ducks, Newburyport for a long time, because I’m not afraid of big books, but I am struggling to make time for it – it is an effort. Also, I’m reading Troll Hunting by Ginger Gorman. I read a lot of non-fiction, but it always feels a bit like homework, and novels are my first love.
If you could recommend just one book to everyone you ever met, which book would it be and why? It has to be Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. It is by far the saddest book I’ve ever read and definitely one of the very best. It’s also great for desert islands and global pandemics because it’s huge. I’ve recommended it a lot, with several disclaimers – it’s tough to tell people to read it when I know it will hurt them. Most importantly, I think it describes the most relatable character of all time, someone who is crippled by their childhood and experiences of love and unable to get past that. I hope no one has as hard a time as poor, darling Jude, but I think we all relate to that ache of self-blame or feeling unloved, despite evidence to the contrary.
And finally, if you were to write an autobiography of your own life what would you call it? Transient: Living out of the boot of a VW Golf – this is very clever wordplay because I’m trans and because I’ve never owned a home and worked all over the UK for years, living in cheap digs or sleeping in film unit trucks. At the moment I’m back at my poor mum’s house, although I now have a different VW.
I’d like to thank Jay for taking part, they certainly recommended some books I’m going to stick on my TBR list, if you’d like to be part of the “Meet the Bookworm” feature, please comment below.