Stavros Damos
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The NS Q&A: Howard Jacobson on social media, “bremoaners” and Family Guy

The Man Booker prize-winning novelist answers our questions.

The first of a series where we invite our favourite writers, thinkers, politicians or cultural figures to share their passions, pet hates and predictions.

What’s your earliest memory?
Sitting up in my pram and making my mother’s women friends laugh. What I can’t remember is what I said that was so amusing.

Who was your childhood hero?
Mario Lanza [the American singer and film star], until he died after eating 15 breakfasts at one sitting. I’ve been wary of heroes since.

What was the last book that made you envy the writer?
If you mean envy the talent, Joseph Roth’s journalism, published as What I Saw. He made melancholy poetry out of everything he saw.

What politician, past or present, do you look up to?
I don’t as a rule admire politicians, but in recent months Kenneth Clarke has been admirable – for being principled, witty, rational, and right.

What would be your Mastermind special subject?
It would win me no friends to say the late novels of Henry James, so I’ll say Mario Lanza, with special reference to The Student Prince, which he was too overweight to appear in (see above), but sang the songs.

Which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live in?
Dr Johnson’s London, just to listen to him talk.

What TV show could you not live without?
Family Guy. It’s not only the funniest programme on television, it’s the most wonderfully, indecorously literate.

Who would paint your portrait?
Ralph Heimans has just done it. Otherwise Rembrandt.

What’s your theme tune?
Leo Fuld’s “Wo Ahin Soll Ich Geh’n” – in English, “Where Can I Go?” – a schmaltzy song of wandering Jewishness at which I used to guffaw in order to conceal the fact that it made me weep.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The painter Sidney Nolan once told me I tried too hard. Advice I’ve been trying hard to follow ever since.

What’s currently bugging you?
The word “bremoaner” and the phrase “get over it”. Passionate dissent from the will of the multitude should be respected, not derided.

When were you happiest?
I am happiest now. There’s nothing like running out of time to make you realise you’re in the right skin, with the right person, and that the Apocalypse will happen with or without you.

What single thing would improve your life?
The promise of immortality.

If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
Writing is the only thing I can do, but I would love, otherwise, to be a lyric tenor and make the women cry whom I once made laugh.

Are we all doomed?
Unless someone can find a way of closing down social media, yes.

Howard Jacobson’s “The Dog’s Last Walk (and Other Pieces)” is published by Bloomsbury. “Pussy: A Novel” is published by Jonathan Cape in April. He appears at Cambridge Literary Festival, in association with the NS, on 21 April.

This article first appeared in the 16 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Brexit and the break-up of Britain

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SRSLY #94: Liam Payne / Kimmy Schmidt / Mulholland Drive

On the pop culture podcast this week: the debut solo single from Liam Payne, the Netflix series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and the David Lynch film Mulholland Drive.

This is SRSLY, the pop culture podcast from the New Statesman. Here, you can find links to all the things we talk about in the show as well as a bit more detail about who we are and where else you can find us online.

Listen using the player below. . .

. . .or subscribe in iTunes. We’re also on StitcherRSS and SoundCloud – but if you use a podcast app that we’re not appearing in, let us know.

SRSLY is hosted by Caroline Crampton and Anna Leszkiewicz, the NS’s assistant editor and editorial assistant. We’re on Twitter as @c_crampton and @annaleszkie, where between us we post a heady mixture of Serious Journalism, excellent gifs and regularly ask questions J K Rowling needs to answer.

The Links

Liam Payne

The lyrics. Oh God, the lyrics.

The interview that Caroline mentioned, feat. Ed Sheeran anecdote.

Liam on the trending chart.

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

The show on Netflix.

Why the show needs to end.

The GOAT, Emily Nussbaum, on the show.

Mulholland Drive

Lynch's ten clues to unlocking the film.

Everything you were afraid to ask about Mulholland Drive.

Vanity Fair goes inside the making of the film.

For next time:

We are watching Loaded.

If you’d like to talk to us about the podcast or make a suggestion for something we should read or cover, you can email srslypod[at]gmail.com.

You can also find us on Twitter @srslypod, or send us your thoughts on tumblr here. If you like the podcast, we’d love you to leave a review on iTunes - this helps other people come across it.

We love reading out your emails. If you have thoughts you want to share on anything we’ve discussed, or questions you want to ask us, please email us on srslypod[at]gmail.com, or @ us on Twitter @srslypod, or get in touch via tumblr here. We also have Facebook now.

Our theme music is “Guatemala - Panama March” (by Heftone Banjo Orchestra), licensed under Creative Commons. 

See you next week!

PS If you missed #93, check it out here.

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