|photo: Kate Gollock
Michael Pedersen is a Scottish poet, author and animateur. He's written two collections of poetry, Play with Me and Oyster (illustrated by musician/artist Scott Hutchison). Pedersen was a recipient of the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship and the John Mather Trust Rising Star Award. He also founded the literary production house Neu! Reekie! His prose debut is Boy Friends (Faber & Faber, September 13, 2022), a paean to the gorgeous male friendships that have transformed his life.
Handsell readers your book in about 25 words:
A sloppy word casserole baked in celebration of friendship in all its weird and wonderous manifestations and a gooey tribute to friends here, there & elsewhere.
On your nightstand now:
Salena Godden's Mrs Death Misses Death; Malachy Tallack's Illuminated by Water; Bryan Washington's Memorial; Douglas Stuart's Young Mungo; Ada Limón's Bright Dead Things. I always have a fiction, a nonfiction and a poetry book on the go at once. This enables me to grasp for the tome that most connects to the version of myself that's surfaced to play that day. I also read stories to my long-distance lover over video calls a few nights a week, so there's one of those constantly within reach, too. This started during lockdown and was impossible to stop.
Favorite books when you were a child:
R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series.
Your top five authors:
I'm going to go narrow it down to living authors: Hollie McNish, Ocean Vuong, Irvine Welsh, Jenni Fagan, Jackie Kay.
Book you've faked reading:
I've seen this answer unfurl before and, no doubt, it'll unfurl again--Ulysses by James Joyce. My birthday is actually on the 16th of June, i.e., Bloomsday. And this year I'm going to wake up in the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris on Bloomsday, the bookshop's press being the original publisher. Plus, I just took part in their podcast series: 100 writers read Ulysses for the 100th anniversary of the novel, so I've been digitally mingling with sages of the text. Oh, the shame!
I've read it now, of course. Or have I?!
Book you're an evangelist for:
Ocean Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous. I worship at the altar of my favourite Ocean.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell. Oh wait, that's a record. (The heartbreaker that is) Watership Down by Richard Adams. And anything (cover designer to the stars) Jon Gray puts his hand to (nail them to the wall if the book's a bogie).
Book you hid from your parents:
My own books, mainly. They contained nefarious behaviour I was keen to keep schtum.
Book that changed your life:
Tom Buchan's Poems 1969-1972 (Edinburgh: The Poni Press, 1972). Plucked from my mum's bookshelf in my early teens, this pale-yellow volume detonated inside of me. It was the first time I read a poetry book outside of the classroom--that's to say, for pure pleasure. The work was testament to the fact that poetry could be profane, political, provocative, sexy, smutty and surreal in one fell swoop. Henceforth, I knew this was the work for me.
Favorite line from a book:
I initially read that as favourite opening line (because I wanted to) so am sticking to that. Titus Groan (from the Gormenghast series) by Mervyn Peake:
"Gormenghast, that is, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its outer walls."
Setting, tone, intrigue, bamboozlement, literary splendour--it's all there with bravura.
Five books you'll never part with:
I'm pretty good at passing books on, so these are noted here because they're collector's items:
A first edition of Aldous Huxley's Collected Essays (1958). It's tatty and scribbled all over and definitely not of any great value, but Huxley was my teenage crush and this book, having been printed while he was still alive, is a wordy monument Aldous may well have clasped.
Max Porter's Grief Is the Thing with Feathers (signed first edition).
Alice Oswald's Falling Awake (signed first edition).
A Ted Hughes limited edition, hand-numbered, pamphlet/single poem print of Crow (112/250).
It'd be unforgivable not to mention (for it is at the acme of things cherished) the first edition of my own book Oyster. I'm not an egomaniac; it's because this creation is signed by my dearest Scott, who illustrated the book and then left this planet not long after. And because it has flaps, which some of the later editions don't possess on account of Brexit-induced paper price increases. Yup, the wings of Oyster wings were clipped because of Brexit (f**k Brexit--Scotland misses the EU).
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. It triggered a new epoch of fantasy reading for me and remains one of the most trenchant, mordant and magical compendiums of male friendship that exists in the written word. Sure, Frodo and Sam but also Merry and Pippin and--the more contentious and then consoling friendship--Legolas and Gimli.
Whether or not your book has a tagline (imagine such a thing):
Yes, I thought you'd never ask. The tagline/song that thrums within in it croons, friendships might just be the greatest love affairs of our lives.