Their Library: Ed Harcourt

Literary influences explored...
Ed Harcourt

Six hours isn't a long time - not really.

It's the time it takes to watch the original 'Star Wars' trilogy, or the time it takes to travel from Edinburgh to London. It's also the time Ed Harcourt used to record his new album, nailing 'Back Into The Woods' during a fluid session at the legendary Abbey Road studios.

Sonically, it might well be one of Harcourt's finest albums. 'Back Into The Woods' is a beautiful record to listen to, with each aspect of the songwriter's work brought to life in sublime clarity. A product of the artistic evolution which followed 2010's 'Lustre', the material on 'Back Into The Woods' finds Ed Harcourt matching his new influences, new experiences with an assured sense of self.

As ever, the songwriter's lyrics are a work in their own right. In turns revealing and mystifying, dipping into the autobiographical and embarking on flurries of imagination, 'Back Into The Woods' is a work of real depth.

With that in mind, ClashMusic decided to invite Ed Harcourt to enter Their Library. Literary influences explored...

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What is your favourite book and why?
'Master & Margarita' by Bulgakov. It's a boomerang, it keeps coming back to me, it's so complex and addictive. It seems very exotic and alien in some ways, I sometimes wonder whether it would have the same effect if I read it in it's original language. It's a book I keep coming back to as there's so much to explore.

What other authors do you like?
Cormac McCarthy, Paul Auster, Raymond Carver, Will Self, Hunter S Thompson, Doris Lessing, Bukowski, Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Denis Johnson, Arthur Rimbaud, James Joyce, Dorothy Parker, Walt Whitman, Patrick Leigh Fermor.

What draws you to certain books?
Probably the exploration of humanity's vulnerable and dark side I guess.

Have you ever discovered a real lost classic? What is it and why?
It has to be 'A Confederacy Of Dunces' by John Kennedy Toole. He wrote it in the 60's and tried to get it published but without success and as a result killed himseld in 1969. Then his mother doggedly pursued publishers over the next decade and it finally became published in 1980 and then won the Pulitzer prize the next year! The book itself is genius, like 'Master & Margarita', abound with oddballs and maverick characters, combination of surrealism, satire & slapstick.

Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your songwriting?
They have in the past. Film as well. Everything seems to seep into songs without you realizing. 'In Cold Blood' & 'Heart of Darkness' seemed to cast shadows over some of Here Be Monsters.

What are you reading at the moment?
I only finished 'Just Kids' by Patti Smith which was wonderful, I'm about to get stuck into 'Words of Mercury', an anthology by Patrick Leigh Fermor, the travel writer.

What is the first book you remember reading as a child?
Probably 'Where the Wild Things Are'. Or 'the Rats of Nimh'.

Did you make good use of your library card as a child / teenager?
I spent quite a lot of time in the library as a kid. I wasn't very good at maths or science but I was pretty good at English so I was an avid reader and still am, although technology seems to be getting in the way of late. I'm trying to temporarily ban myself from social networks.

Have you ever found a book that you simply couldn’t finish?
'Less Than Zero' by Bret Easton Ellis, I didn't really like it.

Do you read book reviews?
Sometimes...

Would you ever re-read the same book?
I've read the Philip Pullman Northern Lights trilogies about 3 times....I've read books 3 times in a row!

Have you ever identified with a character in a book? Which one and why?
It sounds cliched but I guess Holden Caulfield in 'Catcher in the Rye' resonated deeply with me when I read it in my teens. Good time to read it!

Do you read one book at a time or more than one?
I'm terrible, I read about five or more books at the same time, my bedside table is weighed down by an ever revolving pile of unfinished books & it's a malevolent habit I can't seem to shake.

Is there an author / poet you would like to collaborate with?
I would love to do something with DBC Pierre - I drank with him in Antwerp once. Quite an experience. Also Mark Z Danielewski who wrote 'House Of Leaves'. That would be an interesting collaboration - he'd probably cause me temporary insanity.

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'Back Into The Woods' is out now.

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