Daily Mail


- ALBERT READ Managing director of Conde Nast UK and author

...are you reading now?

IT IS a joy to find a book that makes you laugh out loud — and I’ve just found one. Michael Frayn’s 1967 novel Towards The End Of The Morning is set in the dying embers of old Fleet Street. John Dyson, editor of the crosswords and nature columns, dreams of respectabi­lity and making it big in television (failing spectacula­rly).

His colleagues’ lives chiefly consist of grumbling, filing fictitious expenses and eventually turning out 1,000 words of sparkling copy after a long lunch at El Vino’s. One old-timer is thought to be asleep at his desk and it is some time before anyone realises he is dead.

As well as connecting with the flaws and delusions of the immensely sympatheti­c characters, one smells the ink and feels the thrill of the printing presses thundering daily into action in the basement.

...would you take to a desert island?

MARCEL PROUST’s In Search Of Lost Time requires, for its full reward, patience and careful reading that is increasing­ly illsuited to the modern distractio­ns of Instagram and TikTok.

But everyone should at least try it once to experience a rendering of life in words that is quite unlike anything else I have ever read. It reveals itself most fully when you read only a few pages at a time to absorb its richness and complexity.

It is, one could say, high-definition prose — wonderful for its intricate observatio­ns on memory, music, nature, place and every minute flicker of human behaviour. One sentence is nearly 500 words long. Perfect for a desert island.

...first gave you the reading bug?

THE Count Of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Edmond Dantes is thrown into prison for unfounded crimes of treason concocted by jealous rivals and is forced to abandon his love, Mercedes. After 14 years he escapes, stumbles across treasure on the island of Monte Cristo and uses it to take revenge on his enemies.

Revenge is such a seductive theme and never better told than here. I read it in a few long sittings lying on a sofa at perhaps 14 years old. I still remember this first utter absorption in storytelli­ng. I went on immediatel­y to Dumas’s The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After.

...left you cold?

FOR all its political significan­ce, I wilt under the symbolism of The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.

I know it’s important — a classic of 20th-century Russian literature and all that — but I’m afraid I return, with renewed love and appreciati­on, to the luminous worlds of the great 19th-century novels: Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Turgenev.

■ The Imaginatio­n Muscle: Where Good Ideas Come From (And how To have More Of Them) by Albert Read is published on March 23 by Constable at £20.

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