His novels include A Certain Chemistry, Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About, and Love and Other Near-Death Experiences, to which he applied the "Page 99 Test" in May 2007.
Last week I asked him what he has been reading. His reply:
The genuine answer to this is, "Mostly, Mil Millington." This happens to be the time when I'm doing the final edits on my next book, so I'm actually head-under-water in an intense, to the death dialectic with my own sentences. The final edit is always bliss - it works like this: you wrote a joke six months ago; you have since re-read it perhaps fifty times and, as a result (like repeating a word over and over out loud until it breaks), you are now no longer sure if it's even funny; in this context, and mindful that you are committing yourself publicly and forever, you need to decide whether it's better with 'plinth' or 'lectern'.The Page 99 Test: Love and Other Near-Death Experiences.
I actually woke up the other night - this is absolutely true - in a breathy panic that, in one sentence (of absolutely no pivotal importance whatsoever - just 'a sentence'), I might have accidentally omitted a softening modifier.
But anyway, never mind my personal hell, eh?
Due a particularly howling deadline on the edit, I'm not reading much of other people's stuff right now. If I treat myself to a few minutes before sleep, then I continue with Richard Dawkins's The Ancestor's Tale, which traces human evolution backwards through drifting continents and primordial seas. A fascinating journey.
The last couple of things I read before editing stole my life so completely were Yann Martel's Life of Pi and Louise Wener's The Half Life of Stars. (Even when not doing final edits, I'm so busy that books on my 'To Read' list take a long, long time to get to the surface.)
I don't think there's much I need to say about The Life of Pi ("Well, it won the Booker, but wait - let's hear what Mil thinks about it" - Everyone). I had to grit my teeth through the 'vital importance of god' and 'all religions are the same, and so lovely and fluffy too' bits, obviously, but, as a story, it just lifts then carries you along in the arms of goodness and the love and respect of Life.
I don't read books written by friends of mine. In fact, I obsessively avoid doing so. The exception that proves this otherwise steel-clad rule is Louise Wener, due to a historical accident. Her latest concerns a man who one day just disappears - walks away from his life completely. Or, more accurately, it concerns the people he leaves behind, and one in particular - his sister - who sets out to find him. Reading Lou's prose consistently makes me furious. I know she works hard and, like every writer, sometimes struggles as she fills up the blankness with words. But it never bleeding looks like that. Natural talent makes it seem as if every line was effortless. I could puke, I really could. It's simply everywhere, in passing, casual details - for example, "If he had a pair of glasses on this would be the moment that he'd push them backwards on the bridge of his nose." Isn't that just the perfect evocation of an instant? Argh!