PART OF THE The Gift of Reading ISSUE

‘I probably became a writer right then and there, when my dad gave me a book that introduced me to some of the mysteries of the world and that there are more things in heaven and earth.’

BooksfromScotland love David Keenan and his latest novel Xtabeth is one of our favourite reads of the year. It’s a mesmeric novel of love, sex, art, magic and golf that will burrow deep into your subconsciousness. We got in touch with him to talk about the books that have meant a lot to him throughout his life.


By David Keenan
Published by White Rabbit


The book as . . . memory. What is your first memory of books and reading?

I can remember sitting in my high chair and making noises as I turned the pages of a book about cartoon animals and the doctor who had come out to see me making some kind of comment about me reading. The next thing I know I am reading The Claws of Axos by Terrance Dicks, which I got from Tollcross Library, in Glasgow. All of my early reading is associated with libraries. Later, when I got a part-time job, I was able to buy second hand books, but my childhood was all about the libraries. I’ll never forget the day my mum asked me if I would like to get an adult library card. What a thrill. Plus I would ask for copies of the dust jackets that the library would staple on their wall to advertise new books coming in, so I had a great display at home in my bedroom covered in cool book jackets.


The book as . . . your work. Tell us about your latest book Xtabeth. What did you want to explore in writing it?

I wanted to explore the shape of consciousness, art, sex, and magic and how language interfaces between the three, I wanted to cast a spell, and create an entity, an organism, that would develop its own uncanny relationship with the reader.


The book as . . . inspiration. What is your favourite book that has informed how you see yourself?

Agua Viva by Clarice Lispector is my personal holy book. I feel euphoric every time I read it, it is so alive, and like my own work it is an attempt to exhaust language and to manifest the-thing-in-itself. Agua Viva is not about what might be or what was, it is. I see the world through the eyes of Clarice Lispector and I recognise it, truly, as my own.


The book as . . . a relationship. What is your favourite book that bonded you to someone else?

Allen Ginsberg’s Selected Poems 1947-1993. When my wife Heather Leigh and I were falling in love we would read Ginsberg to each other, especially “Song”, which my wife would sing. “The weight of the world/is love.”


The book as . . . object. What is your favourite beautiful book?

Too many to mention, so many beautiful books in my magick collection and in my poetry chapbook collection alone. I’ll mention two favourites: the original 1963 letterpress edition of Roxie Powell’s amazing poetry collection, Dreams Of Straw, printed by Charles Plymell and Dave Haselwood, and the original 1965 vellum binding of Charles Olson’s Human Universe and Other Essays published by The Auerhahn Society. I could go on forever, I collect beautiful books.


The book as . . . entertainment. What is your favourite rattling good read?

Friedrich Nietzsche The Gay Science. It’s the ultimate beach read. Nietzsche is pure feel good and no matter how you are feeling or what you are wresting with, he makes you feel that you are game enough for any of it.


 The book as . . . a destination. What is your favourite book set in a place unknown to you?

The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares. Although I have travelled to this mysterious island many many times, it still remains gloriously unknown to me.


The book as. . .education. What is your favourite book that made you look at the world differently?

Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World by Simon Welfare and John Fairley. It was one of the first books I ever owned, I was obsessed with Arthur C Clarke, still am, and one day when I came home from school for lunch my dad had bought it for me and had left it waiting for me on the kitchen table. Just thinking about it makes me cry. I probably became a writer right then and there, when my dad gave me a book that introduced me to some of the mysteries of the world and that there are more things in heaven and earth.


The book as. . .technology. What has been your favourite reading experience off the page?

When I was young I used to write short stories and print them off on the silver paper of my ZX Spectrum printer, what a buzz, what a smell, it made your story instantly look like a missive from the future, which is where I was writing to, to my future self to tell him to get the fuck out of dodge and start writing.


The book as . . . the future. What are you looking forward to reading next?

The Black Books: Facsimile Edition by C.G.Jung, and I am so excited. A gift to myself to celebrate the release of Xstabeth.


Xtabeth by David Keenan is published by White Rabbit, priced £14.99.

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