Marcel Theroux

Marcel Theroux was born in 1968. The son of the writer Paul Theroux, he was brought up in London and studied at Cambridge and Yale. He is the author of five novels, including The Paperchase (which won a Somerset Maugham Award in 2002) and Far North (2009). He lives in London.

Who is your perfect reader?

My wife. She loves me but she’s got a good sense of humour.

What is the last thing you read that made you laugh out loud?

Someone’s T-shirt in Oxford. It read: “Heart of gold, nerves of steel, knob of butter.”

Which books are currently on your bedside table?

Oh gosh, too many. Two of them are John Gray’s The Silence of Animals and The Devils by Dostoyevsky.

Which book changed your life?

Most recently it has been Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. It made me doubt my own rationality.

What is your daily writing routine?

Ideally I’m at my desk by nine. After lunch I go back to my desk for a few hours. Like all ideals it doesn’t really exist in reality because of kids, neighbours’ extensions being built, and the need to make a living . . . 

What do you snack on while you write?

Coffee. A mathematician called Paul Erdos said mathematicians are like machines for turning coffee into equations. It’s the same for writers.

Who are your literary influences?

My dad would come top of the list, both as writer and person. And I feel a weird kinship with Borges, Fitzgerald, Murakami and Chekhov. Lots of poets too.

Which literary character most resembles you?

Pip from Great Expectations, Rosencrantz and Bilbo Baggins.

When are you happiest?

Gallingly for someone trying to make a living from the printed word, some of my happiest moments are spent watching rubbishy Saturday evening television with my children.

When do you feel most free?

I love swimming in Tooting lido.

What is the best piece of advice a parent gave you?

When I was wondering about getting a job or writing a book my dad asked me: “Have you got an idea?” I said yes, and he said, “Well, keep going.”

How would you earn your living if you had to give up writing?

You can’t make a living out of being a writer! I’d be a chef, a statistician or a barrister. Ideally all three.

Where is your favourite place?

In the pages of a book.

What does it mean to be a writer?

I always resisted a definition. A writer is someone who is doing some writing at that moment. It’s not a specific category of human being. They are someone with a pen in their hand, in the corner of a room, making marks on a piece of paper.

Marcel Theroux’s latest novel is ‘Strange Bodies’ (Faber)

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