John Lanchester: ‘We should treat reading more like sex and drugs’

The bestselling author on his new short stories, catching Covid-19 and why children ought to read Tintin

John Lanchester’s career is a mix of prize-winning novels and popular nonfiction, with a regular output of journalism that straddles literature, finance and politics. His novels include the Booker-longlisted The Wall (2019) and Capital (2012), while his nonfiction analysis of the credit crisis, Whoops! (2010), was a bestseller. Lanchester was born in Hamburg, brought up in Hong Kong and lives in London. Reality is his first collection of stories, each of which takes the reader on an unsettling journey from the seemingly familiar to the eerily uncanny.

Why did you decide to publish these stories, several of which have appeared in print elsewhere, now?
The “Why?” really was that I wrote the first one and read it to friends at the new year and someone said you should send it out. I sent it to the New Yorker and they published it [in April 2017]. It was the first short story I’d ever written. There’s not many things in your mid-50s that give you a tremendous buzz of validation, but that did. It felt like the universe was telling me to write another.

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