Danny Baker, Oscar Wilde and me

Chris Evans in The Telegraph:

Chris_1906820bIt wasn't books at first, not straight off. My first “foreign” girlfriend (i.e. from outside Warrington) was Sara. She was four years older than me, the difference between knowing and not knowing. A journalist, sexy as hell beneath a Purdey hairdo, Sara was supremely middle-class, clever, feminist, a voracious reader and with a point of view on everything. It was undoubtedly she who began my rehabilitation, my secondary education if you like, quietly press-ganging me into seeing foreign-language films at art-house cinemas. People like me didn't “do” arty, did they? Well, yes they did and I loved it. Betty Blue. The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Nikita. La Dolce Vita. I couldn't get enough. From Manchester, we moved to London, where I began working alongside university graduates on a daily basis. And they were nice! “Like real people, almost,” I remember thinking. Far less aloof towards me than I to them. Decent, affable human beings everywhere I looked. I continued to realise how wrong I had been. But still, the process was glacially slow. Then, alas, my redemption came to a grinding halt as my career took off. Channel Four's Big Breakfast was a hit. I was tripped up by that dreaded double act of fame and fortune. Until, that is, TFI Friday was born and I became friends with the magnificent writer and broadcaster, Danny Baker. Danny is Mr Words, Mr Books and Mr Memory. He loves the English language more than anyone I know. “You need to read some Charles Bukowski,” he barked at me one day. A week later I'd read five. On another occasion, Danny threw a copy of Marcus Aurelius's Meditations at me inscribed with the message: “Dive in and dig deep, in here is everything you need to know.” It was also he who gifted me my first Oscar Wilde novel – a beautiful collectors' edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray. “Breathtakingly brilliant, there's no one better.” And so the tide began to turn again. And I'm happy to declare it has been turning ever since. I've since even written two books of my own which some people have actually bought!

I could harp on forever as to why we need to push the little ones in to falling in love with the written word, but let's draw to a close with this. The written word has a huge advantage over what we say. By that I mean the writer gets to convey exactly what they really want, exactly how they want to convey it. And one of its many and appealing secrets is that it allows us the luxury of consideration, of almost sounding better than we really are. Of course it's still entirely us but I can't tell you how many published authors I have met who can barely string two words together. Give them a keyboard and they can take on the world.

More here.