Anthony Trevelyan is a novelist and spoken-word performer from Lancashire. His first novel, The Weightless World, shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott prize, satirised the fetishsation of new technologies as solutions to human problems. His second, Claudia, follows Samson Glaze, a former hippy turned internationally famous entrepreneur, and his search for his son, who has joined a secretive cult.
The Momus Questionnaire was created by musician Nick Currie, and is designed to identify the aspects of the subject’s personality which give them a positive self-image, or ‘subcultural capital’.
Have you rebelled against someone else’s dreary expectations of your life, and become something more unexpected?
This is awkward, because I’m not outwardly very rebellious and most of my expectations of my life are pretty dreary. I got in trouble for smoking at school? Will that do?
What in your life can you point to and say, like Frankie, ‘I Did It My Way’?
Ah, I’ve got a good one for this. The other day there were some roadworks at the top of our street and some guys had dug up a section of pavement from which water was freely running and they’d put up signs warning people to look out, open water main, but, you see, I’d not noticed these signs, because noticing signs is not something I’m very interested in, and I went walking right along that bit of pavement anyway! One of the guys called to me, ‘You don’t want to walk there, you’ll get your feet wet,’ and I replied rather superbly, ‘Oh, I think I can live with that,’ and I carried on walking, exactly as I’d intended to do, and had wet feet for the rest of the day. Nicely done, I think you’ll agree.
What creative achievements are you most proud of?
As a kid I was a really impressive den-maker. I made dens all over the place and honestly, they were brilliant – if you’d been five at the time you’d have been impressed. I once came up with a fortress of quietly shattering ingenuity and luxuriousness involving every cushion and pillow and bed-sheet in the house and lived in it for what I remember as about six months (though in reality it was about half an afternoon). There was art in that thing, I’m not shy of saying it, art and integrity. I’ve also written a couple of novels and I’m quite proud of them.
If there was one event in your life which really shaped you, made you the person you are today, what would it be?
I feel that the person I am today arrived by sometimes painfully slow increments (and I will be a slightly different person tomorrow – more of those increments). Not to be too doomy, but in recent years I was most aware of an event changing me in palpable ways when my dad died. It happened suddenly, and I took a long time to absorb it. I’m not sure I’d say that I’ve fully absorbed it yet. But my dad was a great guy, he had a manner and an outlook that I admired and emulated and perhaps the emulation has become more pronounced, more deliberate and knowing, since he died. As if, while he was alive, there was a sense that something was being looked after, and now I have to take over and do the looking after because he can’t manage it any more. But my feelings about my dad are very positive and I feel proud and grateful to have known him.
If you had to make a song or rap boasting about your irresistible charm and sexiness, how would you describe yourself?
I have exquisitely formed ears. I’m aware that may sound like arrogance, but it is merely true. Ears of heart-breaking perfection and beauty. Hate me.
Have you ever made material sacrifices because of your integrity?
See above re: superlative den-making. Blood, sweat and tears, I tell you.
Describe a public personality who exemplifies everything you’d like to be yourself, then another public personality who incarnates everything you’d least like to be.
George Saunders always strikes me as a fairly terrific human being. And he has a splendid beard – a Bryson-level beard. I could never grow a beard. I’ve tried a couple of times and the results made small children avert their eyes in silent sorrow. As for public personalities who incarnate the ‘least’ end of things, one is currently rather spoilt for choice. Looking at our politicians, the choice appears to be limited to bastard or wanker. Bastard or wanker – that’s all that’s on offer. 45 would be an all too obvious choice; Rees-Mogg and Farage likewise; Clarkson simply outré. Mind you, I can say with absolute earnestness that I really hate Matthew McConaughey. Can’t stand him. It sometimes astonishes me how much I hate McConaughey. Look what a bloody faff it is even typing his stupid name. My wife had to wear me down for months before I would consent to sit glowering in front of Interstellar. And he can star in as many seasons of True Detective as he likes, I’m still never going to watch that shit.
If you were an Egyptian pharaoh and had to be buried with a few key objects to take to the next world, what would they be?
At one time I could have answered this with ‘books and fags’ and sounded proper rock n’ roll, but I’ve given up smoking (sort of) and would now have to say ‘books and electronic cigarette with charger and supply of fluids’, and…that doesn’t have the same ring at all.
Do you have a favourite joke, quotation or proverb?
I’m not a (particularly) negative person, but I’ve always loved the committed negativity of Hamlet’s ‘It is not nor it cannot come to good’. And it was quoted in Paddington 2, so there’s another reason to love it.
What’s your favourite portrait (it can be a song, a painting, a film, anything)?
Despite what appearances may suggest, I’m not a massive David Foster Wallace fan (I’ve read only one of his books all the way through, and it wasn’t Infinite Jest), but I loved James Ponsoldt’s film The End of the Tour, re-enacting Wallace’s conversations with the journalist and novelist David Lipsky while on a multi-city book tour to promote IJ. Jason Segel gives an astonishing performance as the brilliant, reticent, perverse, doomed Wallace – it made me want to read more of the guy’s books, and you can’t say fairer than that.