Alex Preston was born in 1979. He lives in London with his wife and two children. He used to work as a trader in the City and is now studying at UCL for his PhD on Violence in the Novel. This Bleeding City is his first book, and is published by Faber and Faber in the UK, and across twelve further territories. It won the Spear’s and Edinburgh Festival first book prizes. Alex also writes a fortnightly column in the New Statesman and the lyrics of some of his brother’s songs. He studied English under Tom Paulin at Hertford College, Oxford.
What was the last book you read?
It was War and Peace. I went away for six weeks and took with me two books I’d put off reading because they were both physically too big and psychologically to daunting to approach. The first, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, comes in at 1200 pages (of
which two hundred are footnotes) and is vast, sprawling and quite brilliantly bonkers. As near to the Great American Novel as we’re likely to get.
War and Peace was actually a much easier read. I think many are put off by the size and this myth that there are too many characters to keep track of. In fact there are only a handful: Prince Andrei, Pierre, Natasha and Nikolai Rostov. It’s a smashing read, delightfully trashy, and the new translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky is near-perfect.
Which book would you recommend to a younger version of you that hadn’t yet read it?
Age 7: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Age 10: The Weirdstone of Brisingamon by Alan Garner
Age 13: The Secret History by Donna Tartt and Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger
Age 15: What a Carve Up! By Jonathan Coe and Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
Age 18: Nightwood by Djuna Barnes and A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
What was the first book you remember having a big impact on you as a child?
I remember being much taken by the sporty coupés in the work of Richard Scarry. Madeleine L’Engle and Enid Blyton were my under- duvet reading of choice.
Can you tell us briefly about the Faber Academy and the work they are doing for aspiring writers?
It’s a wonderful creative writing programme that is put together by Faber authors and publishers. I speak to authors about the road to publication, how to balance work life and writing life, how to work with an editor. The academy runs anything from one day masterclasses with the likes of Andrew Motion and Tim Lott to six-month courses that help writers shape their novels into publishable form. It’s a really marvelous institution and already a number of its graduates have been published.
After reading your article Making The Leap for Writer’s Hub I’m intrigued as to what your next book is about?
It’s the story of a group of young people who get drawn into a religious movement in south-west London headed by a charismatic priest. It’s about faith and friendship, love and betrayal, and draws on many of the themes from This Bleeding City: greed, money
and redemption. I’m hugely proud of it. It will be published by Faber & Faber in January next year.
Alex will be at WORDfest for the One Town, One Book panel on Saturday 9th April at