WASHINGTON -- The other day, I received a call from a very agreeable lady at C-SPAN, asking me to do a show with them called "In Depth." It will take a lot of time, as they want to interview me on all the books I have written. Also, it will last three hours! That is a marathon. I can hardly listen for three hours, much less talk. Yet I have been a fan of C-SPAN for years, so I could hardly say no. Also, I am an advocate of the printed word. I want it to survive. It seems to me the printed word has been under assault for decades. The Internet is the latest threat against it. First there was the camera. Then came TV. Now there is the Internet, on which everyone writes and no one reads. In a world where everyone is a writer and no one a reader, how long can the printed word last? We live in a blizzard of words, but no one is reading seriously.
The first question I have been asked before appearing on C-SPAN's "Book TV" Feb. 6 is what my favorite books might be. They have changed over the years, but I think today there are at least a score of books that I return to every few years. Let me share them with you.
About anything by Evelyn Waugh pleases me, though he was a ghastly man. For that matter, a lot of writers strike me as insufferable, but I run the risk of committing the genetic fallacy here, so let me just say I like his books. I am glad he never signed any for me. Also, anything written by V.S. Naipaul fetches my interest, beginning with "A Bend in the River." For me, Naipaul gives us an inkling of the international terrorist who was to come.
H.L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan always have charmed me, Nathan being underpraised, Mencken overpraised. I reread regularly Malcolm Muggeridge, whom I knew, and Luigi Barzini Jr., also a great friend; both were stupendous journalists and stylists. Tom Wolfe's short pieces -- for instance, "Radical Chic" and "Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers" -- are perceptive and elegant glimpses into lives that have affected our era. They are alive with wicked wit and joviality. Tom is also a very good novelist, as can be seen from "The Bonfire of the Vanities" and "A Man in Full." Of all the writers writing today, Wolfe has influenced me the most.