Which book has had the biggest impact on you?
I’m sure everyone says this, but it’s so difficult to single out a single book. Rather than one title that had a significant impact, I tend to think about multiple important books that played shaping roles at different stages in my life. The Emperor’s New Clothes as a child, Batman: The Killing Joke (age 15ish) by Alan Moore, some or other translation of L’Étranger by Albert Camus (age 18), Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (about 20), The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, The Instructions by Adam Levin, ossuaries by Dionne Brand, Cereus Blooms at Night by Shani Mootoo, American Pastoral by Philip Roth, NW by Zadie Smith, Underworld by Don DeLillo. I remember reading all of those things and thinking ‘You’re allowed to do this? Writing like this is possible?’ and feeling transported/transformed.
I think the book that I remember most fondly is Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis. When I was quite young – I’m not at all sure anymore how old I was – my mother read me the entire Chronicles of Narnia series over what must have been months of bedtime stories. It was, for the period she read the books, the best part of my day. I really fondly remember being tucked under covers to hear stories of this other world of talking animals, wonderstruck children, sprawling battles... I barely remember the plot of any of the books, but can clearly hear the voice she did for a character in Voyage, Reepicheep, a seafaring mouse. He was my favourite.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?
I live in Birmingham with my family and we’re all pretty content here. Of every place I’ve ever lived it’s the city with a reputation that is farthest removed from its reality. In myth it’s a sort of post-industrial nowhere where everyone has a parody accent; in actual fact it’s a quite affordable mixed metro/suburbia where people, in general, are really kind and friendly.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A comic-book artist.
Who had the greatest influence on you during your childhood?
My mother and my grandparents.
Who were your childhood heroes?
Michael Knight on Knight Rider, an ‘80s TV show, because he had a talking car. Spider-man, because he could shoot webs from his hands. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles because they were both ninjas and turtles. It took me a long while to admire real adults … Probably until I realised that getting through the day-to-day for the people who raised me required a kind of heroism that I wasn’t ready to notice as a child. Not quite as cool as swinging from skyscrapers from webshooters, or being a ninja, but more and more impressive in retrospect.
What teacher had the greatest impact on you?
It’s very hard to pick. Probably my MA personal tutor who told me I was good enough to do a PhD, something I had never at all considered. That completely altered the trajectory of my life.
If you weren’t a member of the English Faculty, what would you be?
Gosh. Good question. Writing, teaching and doing research somewhere — inside or outside of academia. But where? I have no idea.
Malachi McIntosh is an Associate Professor of World Literatures in English at the University of Oxford and the Barbara Pym Tutorial Fellow in English at St. Hilda’s College. He is the author of Emigration and Caribbean Literature (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) and the editor of Beyond Calypso: Re-Reading Samuel Selvon (Ian Randle, 2016). From 2019-2022, Malachi was the Editor and Publishing Director of Wasafiri, the magazine of international contemporary writing. Prior to that, Malachi co-led the Runnymede Trust’s multiple-award-winning Our Migration Story history education project and taught at the universities of Cambridge and Warwick, and Goldsmiths University of London. He is currently working on a book on the Caribbean Artists Movement