A crowd including Nicola Shulman, Bill Forse and Catherine Gibbs gathered last night in Waterstones Piccadilly to hear A. N. Wilson declaim on How To… read the bible, as part of the Academy of the same name. ‘I’m incurably wishy-washy’ he claimed, before launching into a forty minute, noteless disquisition which took in Saint Neot, Martin Luther and Barbara Strachey. ‘The story of Noah’s Ark is just an allegory about how ghastly everyone except the Jews is,’ he said fruitily before ticking off Frances Wilson for getting the giggles.
At one point he launched into an attack on modern biography – ‘interfering in people’s lives, insulting their widows and so forth’ – which in turn led him to contemplate the nature of literature. ‘On the whole,’ he opined, ‘books are written by literate people, for literate people. They’re seldom written by illiterate people for literate people. Although there are a few cases of that – Jeffrey Archer comes to mind…’
The appreciative crowd surged forward to buy copies of ‘The Book of The People: How To Read The Bible’ – but there was no one at the till to take payment. And anyone looking to the great man for a solution would have been flummoxed: he had been subsumed by the enthusiastic admiration of two American blondes, who eagerly invited him to join their reading group. ‘I’d be delighted,’ he murmured modestly.