Rob Spence was born in Manchester, and attended school there before reading English at Leeds University. He taught in secondary schools before becoming a university lecturer. He is currently Associate Head of the English and History Department at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk. He has published articles and book chapters on Anthony Burgess, Jane Rogers, Penelope Fitzgerald, Robert Nye and George Mackay Brown. He is working on a book about Burgess. Rob blogs at Topsyturvydom.
Why do you blog? > It's a form of vanity publishing, I suppose. I like being able to share my thoughts and get some feedback. Blogging has also helped me connect with many people I otherwise wouldn't have known.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Making contact with Sharon Bakar, a major figure on the Malaysian literary scene, who is now a good friend. Through her, I have visited Malaysia twice, made further friends and broadened my horizons in unexpected ways.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Frank Kermode, Voltaire, Simon Schama, Gore Vidal and Frances Yates, among many others.
What are you reading at the moment? > Gilbert Adair's The Act of Roger Murgatroyd.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Clive James, Shakespeare, Anthony Burgess, Orson Welles, Powell and Pressburger, James Joyce, Tom Stoppard, John Dowland, Ford Madox Ford, Nicholas Hilliard, Richard Thompson, Cole Porter - and I could go on.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne.
What is your favourite poem? > 'The Good-Morrow' by John Donne.
What is your favourite movie? > Touch of Evil by Orson Welles.
What is your favourite song? > 'Payday Evening' by Pete Atkin.
Who is your favourite composer? > Dowland.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London, which I read as a teenager, and which still seems relevant to our world today. I hadn't ever considered the lives of the marginalized in our cities before reading this work.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > 'Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.'
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Renationalize utilities and railways.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be Prime Minister, who would you choose? > Stephen Fry.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Global warming.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Don't look back.
What is your favourite proverb? > 'Fine words butter no parsnips.'
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Watching television; lying on beaches; participating in lotteries; karaoke; shopping in malls.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > The ingress of water.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > Lots of things, and I think anyone who says different is extraordinarily self-satisfied.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > Trevor Eve.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > New Zealand.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Listening to the radio (we don't have a TV); going to concerts; walking; visiting interesting places; rooting around in bookshops; stroking cats.
What talent would you most like to have? > The ability to play a musical instrument competently.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > P.G. Wodehouse.
Who are your sporting heroes? > My boyhood hero was Bert Trautmann; later it was Colin Bell. In cricket, the Lancashire giants of the 60s and 70s – Clive Lloyd in particular. I find it difficult to see the current crop of millionaire mercenaries as heroic.
Which English Premiership football team do you support? > Manchester City (from my armchair).
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Stephen Fry, Orson Welles, Maureen Lipman.
What animal would you most like to be? > A cat.
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