Saturday, December 01, 2012
Pete Townshend: By the Book
The musician and author thinks Ozzy Osbourne wrote the best rock memoir. “It made me think I should chuck my memoir manuscript away and throw a party during which I jump out of the window but don’t quite kill myself.”
What was the last truly great book you read?
“Les Misérables.” Somehow I’d missed it, despite it launching a grand theater musical. I was so surprised at how readable it is, how well the characters are drawn and how gripping it is. A really great modern book? I think William Boyd is doing wonderful work. His set of short stories “The Dream Lover” is one of the most evocative books I’ve read — full of clear images and emotions conveyed with few words and from the very natural points of view of each narrator or leading character. His masterpiece is “Any Human Heart.” As I write this I realize I tend to set male and female novelists in different parts of my brain. So I want to add a female great book — and so many come up in a tumult that I can’t fix on a single one. If I push myself I come up with a truly great modern book, but a bit of a stereotype, I’m afraid: Margaret Atwood — “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
You once worked as an acquisitions editor at the British publisher, Faber & Faber. Do you miss anything about that job?
Are you kidding? That was the best job I ever had. I had lunch with the old chairman, Matthew Evans, this week, and we both went dewy-eyed about the old days. He’s in the House of Lords trying to stay awake, and I’m pounding stages like an aging clown. I loved the way the Faber editorial committee was driven as much by gossip and rumor as ideas. It was fun. Not what you expect in such an esteemed publishing house.