Their Library: Gabriel Bruce

Literary influences explored...
Gabriel Bruce

Within a few seconds of listening to Gabriel Bruce, his literary influences become clear.

Whereas most indie newcomers tend to rely on the same tired clichés, the London based artist allows his imagination free rein. Debut album 'Love In Arms' is fast approaching, and is perhaps the only recent full length to half-inch some lines from Shakespeare.

An utterly unique new talent, Gabriel Bruce set off around the country on a short - free entry - tour. Now at home plotting his next move, Clash asked the songwriter to become the latest entry into Their Library.

Opening up about his literary influences, Gabriel Bruce was only too happy to accept.

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What is your favourite book and why? 
I dont know, Job? Revelations? Or maybe 'As I Lay Dying'? Or 'Pale Fire'? Or 'Lolita'? I like Nabokov a lot, he wrote a pretty faultless novel. I guess that I've always had a favourite book that has then been displaced by the next, it's how it works i think, you need a book to suit who you are at that time. Then it changes, you find a new disguise for yourself and a new bible. Russian people seem to be good at writing books, 'Anna Karenina' is pretty sublime and Crime and Punishment's good. 'The Pigeon' by Patrick Suskind is the book i've read more than any other, it's a very short novel, the very pathetic story of a lonely, scared man. It's desperate and hilarious and beautiful.

What other authors do you like?
Overall I'd say Nabokov is unequalled. Faulkner and Steinbeck have taken up a lot of my time, and i still have time for them now. Virginia Woolf, Simone de Beauvoir. When i'm feeling sordid I'll look to Georges Bataille or Anais Nin. John Kennedy Toole, Patrick Hamilton, Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Cormac McCarthy, Kurt Vonnegut, I like Jonathan Franzen, his books are pretty compulsive, and then Dave Eggers and Dave Foster Wallace and Phillip Roth, what i've read of Thomas Pynchon I've enjoyed, I'd like to read more, all those 'Clever American Guys' are good. Does Shakespeare count? He's the best there ever was, he's better even than Nabokov.

What draws you to certain books? 
I try and judge books by their covers, you know, so they look nice on my shelf.

Have you ever discovered a real lost classic? What is it and why? 
A couple of years ago I read everything that John Fante had written, I discovered him through a poem Bukowski wrote about sitting with Fante at his deathbed, he wrote four shortish novels which you can now get as a collection published by Canongate, The Bandini Quartet, they were originally published by the Black Sparrow Press, same guy who printed most of Bukowski's stuff, they were friends Bukowski and Fante, I think Bukoski said something like 'Fante was my God', he's very indebted to him. In these books humour and pain are put together with such beautiful simplicity, they're emotionally brazen without becoming overly sentimental. Fante's alter ego who stars in the books is as endearing as any character I've ever come across. The last book was dictated by Fante, who had become wheelchair bound and blind, to his wife Joyce. Yeah, those books are really good. His son Dan is also a good writer, much in the vain of his father's friend. 

Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your songwriting? 
Occasionally. I stole some lines from Hamlet in my song 'Dark Lights Shine Loud'.

What are you reading at the moment? 
I just finished reading Travels with Charley, which is a Steinbeck non-fiction about his trip across America with his french poodle Charley, it's a very sweet book, a friend of mine lent it me.

What is the first book you remember reading as a child? 
I think probably Beatrix Potter or something, my mum was always getting us books and reading to us as infants, she gave me A Catcher In The Rye when i was about 7 or 8, I remember feeling really smug and mature reading it - all I remember of it really is that it seemed to be steaming and moist. 

Did you make good use of your library card as a child / teenager? 
Yeah, everyone must support their Library! Have you ever found a book that you simply couldn’t finish? There are many books that i simply couldn't finish. I've then gone on to pretend that i did finish them, only the very best books, of course, some of the best books ever written have the questionable honour of my having pretended to read them. 'In Search of Lost Time' is something I particularly enjoyed pretending to read, 'Finnegans Wake' is another that myself and a good few of of my friends like to all pretend to have read and then we discuss it at great length, it's really a genius work.

Do you read book reviews? 
I try to look at the London Review of Books or the Times Literary Supplement from time to time but honestly, i'm not so good at reading contemporary authors, there's a few hundred years of writing to catch up on that's already been universally well received... I like Will Self's reviews for the Guardian.

Would you ever re-read the same book? 
Yes. 

Have you ever identified with a character in a book? Which one and why? 
I guess the idea is you identify with the characters in all the books you read, or are able to empathise with them at least. but specifically, I can see bits of Alexi Ivanovich from the Gambler in myself, I've known that sort of painful devotion, that madness.

Do you read one book at a time or more than one? 
Usually one at a time if they're good. Is there an author / poet you would like to collaborate with? Anne Carson, she's a genius.

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'Love In Arms' is set to be released next year.

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