Just back from Athens, where I spent a wonderful and intensely memorable couple of days. Many, many thanks to the warm and enthusiastic audience at the Onassis Cultural Centre (and to Marilena Astrapellou, who was my onstage interviewer). The support of my Greek fans has been terrific, over the last few years. This appearance was based around Greek publication of Expo 58, but special thanks to all those who brought me copies of The Broken Mirror to be signed, and told me how much their children had enjoyed it.
And now, as 2013 draws to a close, I find myself announcing my third publication of the year. Admittedly, ‘publication’ in this case means something new - to me, at any rate. I’ve never published anything purely in ebook format before (apart from the short story ‘Pentatonic’), and it feels slightly odd to have a book in my name advertised online - with a particularly attractive cover (I love those classic old Penguin covers) - and yet not to have a physical object to hold in my hands or put on my shelves. Welcome, I suppose, to the brave new world of digital publishing …
Anyway, the book is called Marginal Notes, Doubtful Statements, and collects a fair amount of my journalism from the last twenty years or more. Many of the pieces are book reviews, of course, but there is also quite a lot of stuff about film (Billy Wilder, Hitchcock, Lindsay Anderson) and music (Steve Reich, Brian Eno, the Canterbury scene). Plus some of the longest interviews I’ve given, a few autobiographical pieces, some political reflections, some general essays on the art of writing - it’s a pretty varied mix. E-readers (or at least Kindles) don’t allow you to do a page-count but I would think we have about 400 pages altogether.
It was a surprisingly enjoyable book to put together. The earliest pieces - interviews with Steve Reich and Brian Eno - involved revisiting my old contributions to the music magazine The Wire from the late 1980s and early 90s. I could have gone even further back, and dug out my film reviews for the now-defunct Metropolitan magazine from 1988-89, but my memory is that these were not great. Nor did I decide, in the end, to include any of my film reviews for the New Statesman (from the mid-90s) or my earliest Guardian pieces in which I interviewed the likes of Anthony Burgess and Gore Vidal. Maybe for another time.
This will be my last blog of the year, I expect. It’s time to find my warmest winter clothes and get packing for my trip to the French Alps where, from 14-21 December, I shall be a jury member at the Festival De Cinéma Européen des Arcs. Very much looking forward to this. In the meantime, anyone who wants to make their friends happy by giving Marginal Notes as a virtual Christmas present can find it here or, indeed, here.
Well, that was fun. Kind of exhausting, though. Many thanks to all the readers, from Birmingham to Brussels, from Beverley to Marseille, who came to meet me over the last few weeks to hear me read from Expo 58 and talk about it. I enjoyed all the events but I must say that, above all, presenting the novel in one of the spheres of the Atomium was a great, truly memorable moment in my life; and I must also give special thanks to my audience in Birmingham, where I always (despite having abandoned the place more than 25 years ago) seem to get a warm reception, with lots of nice discussions with people afterwards about The Rotters’ Club in particular. And now, finally, I can huddle down in my study as autumn kicks in and start thinking about what to write next …
Before that, though, a few things to mention:
This Thursday (October 31st) I’m doing a webchat on goodreads. You can go over there now and post questions about Expo 58 or indeed any of my books.
Last week finally saw the publication of an English-language edition of The Story of Gulliver, my re-telling of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels for 8-12 year olds. The publishers are the wonderful Pushkin Press and they’ve done a beautiful edition. Sara Oddi’s illustrations are particularly stunning.
Advance warning of another book of mine that will be coming out soon. Three books in as many months! This one is a substantial collection of non-fiction called Marginal Notes, Doubtful Statements. It contains bits and pieces of journalism going all the way back to my days writing about music for The Wire in 1990, and coming right up to date with my most recent pieces on British satire and Flann O’Brien for the London Review of Books this year. There are quite a few political and autobiographical essays as well. Penguin are publishing it as an e-book only at the beginning of December. I’d say it would make a nice Christmas present but I don’t really know how you would go about wrapping it up …
Just over a month now until the Italian and UK publication of Expo 58. I’ve been busy with my webmistress updating this website over the last few days, and before long we should have a page for the new book, along with new pages for my children’s books The Story of Gulliver (which will be published in the UK by Pushkin Press in October) and The Broken Mirror.
As if that weren’t enough, there will be yet another publication in December, when Penguin will be issuing an ebook called Marginal Notes, Doubtful Statements, which is an anthology of my journalism and non-fiction from the last twenty years.
All this flurry of activity requires me, of course, to abandon my life as a literary hermit and - for a few weeks at least - emerge blinking and squinting into the sunlight, so that I can talk to readers at a number of public events which are listed on the news page. In fact I’m really looking forward to these, especially my visits to Sarzana and Birmingham and, best of all, the launching of the Dutch and UK editions of Expo 58 at the Atomium in Brussels in October.
Wherever you are in the next few months - Italy, Belgium or Britain - please come along to meet me and get your books signed! (Or perhaps not , as I’ve a feeling it’s going to be the unsigned copies of Expo 58 which will be the collectors’ items in years to come …)