“I view fiction as medicine”: Jesse Mulligan’s reading diet revealed

“I view fiction as medicine”: Jesse Mulligan’s reading diet revealed

Welcome to The Spinoff Books Confessional, where we learn about the reading habits and quirks of New Zealanders in general. This week: RNZ Afternoons host and The Project NZ co-host Jesse Mulligan.

The book I wish I had written

Whatever love means By David Baddiel. Baddiel is one of Britain’s most famous comedians although I didn’t know him when I first picked up this book, at random, from the publisher’s pile and set about reading the funniest and most poignant modern novel I’ve ever come across. I was struck by his ability to insert actual jokes into his writing, jokes that I can still remember verbatim 25 years later (“Vic was the kind of guy whose sense of social responsibility was exhausted when he stopped to let an ambulance go” past). Then I discovered that he was an actor (as I was in That time), and he had just turned out, seemingly effortlessly, to become a great novelist. Disgusting.

Everyone should read

What is our problem? By Tim Urban. It came out earlier this year, in electronic form because he wasn’t willing to wait for a printing press to share the urgent thoughts coming out of his giant brain. In this book, he sat down and thought about the greatest human problems of our time (tribalism, technological acceleration, and impending societal collapse) and then worked out how to explain them using fixed shapes and thought bubbles. I don’t think anyone can read this book without walking away with a completely renewed vision of where we are and how we got here. The world is going badly, but somehow Tim’s explanation of why makes the whole thing so much better. Also shout out to Jon Ronson You have been publicly shamedwhich was a great, hot take on this stuff about 10 years ago.

From left to right: The book Jesse Mulligan wishes he had written; The book he thinks everyone should read; And the book he wants to be buried with.

The book I want to be buried with

Infinite humor By David Foster Wallace. Maybe they could put it on the lid of the coffin to help keep it closed. It’s a sprawling novel of great ambition, difficulty and reward, and I’ve spent 4% of my life (so far) reading it. I don’t think I will ever encounter a book of this importance again.

The first book I remember reading by myself

Homeland borders By Diana Wynne Jones. She was kind of a middle grade sci-fi/fantasy author in the 80s who wrote books with great imagination This person’s plot was slowly and mysteriously revealed. I found it so difficult that I was convinced it was an adult book and I had just stumbled upon it. I was about nine years old, but I was completely shut down, emotionally and mentally.

Written by the same author Witch week, a series of books set in a school for witches and wizards (not sure why she thought this premise would catch on). I was so happy to see my daughter Daisy reading one of DWJ’s books recently It’s clearly not dated too badly.

Dystopia or utopia?

As an idealist, I love the perfect book, even though I’m not sure it exists. I often think to myself “You know, this book would be perfect if this heroine didn’t constantly face difficult circumstances that she had to overcome in character-defining ways” but I think if I read a novel where the main guy wanders through the book that goes “Wow, things are going… Unbelievably!” It will ultimately be unsatisfying (although please get in touch if you know of a book like this).

Fantasy or realistic?

I gravitate toward nonfiction, but I consider fiction to be medicine Knowing that He would give me things I didn’t know I needed. I don’t care much for fantasy books I even battled with The Absolute Book and American Gods, both of which everyone He told me I loved him But give me someone in a world like mine who thinks the things I’ve thought as well, and I’ll be happy. I cut part of Sarah Weinman’s Still Life, a wonderful reminder of the joys of spending time with well-written characters (even though it’s set in mid-century Florence, which is almost fantasy). She also has great comedic timing Often, for example, putting harsh phrases into the mouth of the family parrot.

It is a crime against language

Bad joke. Like a forensic scientist who reads crime investigation novels, I’ve spent my life writing and dissecting humor, so I have very high standards for books that try to make jokes. My friend who took Emily Perkins’s classes at IIML says she told him that all books should be funny, and I like that idea, although perhaps it’s important to accept whatever kind of fun you can achieve. One in every 100 authors can write original and beautiful gags The rest have to find more subtle opportunities for humor, such as unexpected ironic twists in the plot.

(BTW, do you know who could use some higher standards of humor? People offering cover quotes: “Turned! I had tears of laughter streaming down my face when I read this” is typical. Bro, did we read the same book?)

The book I never admitted I’d read

Bad News: How the Media Undermine Democracy By one of RNZ’s interviewees, Bhatia Ungar-Sarjun. She argues that we are all closer (politically and culturally) than we think, but the media’s thirst for conflict defines, amplifies, and exaggerates our differences, making us more vulnerable to hating our neighbors. As a liberal Marxist, her starting point is always “How does this affect the working class?” She makes some interesting arguments that journalism, in America at least, has shifted from a working-class trade to one dominated by a group of glass tops who grew up socializing and communicating with the people they are supposed to hold accountable. Her arguments are provocative, precise and well-reasoned, but unfortunately she uses the word “woke” in her title, so it’s not the kind of thing you can easily engage in polite conversation with.

From left to right: The first book Jesse Mulligan remembers reading himself; The book he never admitted to reading; And his most underrated book.

The most underrated book

Status anxiety By Alain de Botton: One of the few books on the specific motivation of the modern world An embarrassing, burning desire to outshine people who are similar to you. He wrote that no one compares himself to the queen or to a homeless person No, you choose the person in your peer group or industry who is directly above you, and if you manage to reach their level of status, instead of feeling satisfied, you just start feeling jealous of someone new. I’m sure the book first published in 2004 would benefit from review in the age of social media (even though the author has been canceled from memory in said media because he acted like an idiot).

Best meeting with the author

Clive James is a writer of great importance to me and a great influence on me Because he’s joking, yes, but also because his goals are so high. He cares so much about words and language that sometimes, in an essay, he picks out two words that most of us think are synonyms and deliberately uses them in different ways (“He was shy, but he wasn’t reserved”). “).Anyway, you can imagine how excited I was at the book festival to hand my book over for signing, and all the things I had to say to him now that I finally had the chance.

“What is your name?”


“Elvis Presley had a twin brother named Jesse. He died during childbirth.”




“Thank you for purchasing the book.”

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