Wednesday, 17 December 2008

"In the room the women come and go..." (T.S. Eliot)

More catastrophic news from the publishing world, with Woolworths closing down all of its stores – and probably bringing down Bertrams in its downfall – Faber reporting a sharp decline in sales and Quercus putting growth plans on hold. The atmosphere was completely different at yesterday’s British Council Christmas Party, where I had the pleasure of meeting many friends and acquaintances, including the charming Paul Marsh of the Marsh Agency and his wife Susie Nicklin, the Director of Literature for the British Council. Christopher Maclehose was there too, but not his faithful dog Mishka, who probably did not pass the tough, Star-Trek-like security system at the entrance.

The mood was upbeat among the many writers, publishers and literati who attended the party: there were lots of smiling faces around – not to mention red noses – as well as many exceptionally good-looking girls. There are those who will tell you that publishing tends to attract total toads. I think this is a filthy slander, and I would welcome your comments, and your personal experiences, regarding this point.

During the party, I met Laura Chernaik, who I think has one of the coolest jobs in the world, as she looks after the Poems on the Underground. I would exchange my position for hers any day, and she can be sure she’s going to receive quite a big pack from us early next year.

Among the many writers I met there, the performance-poet Michael Horowitz told me a couple of funny anecdotes. I’ve been following his work for a few years now, and if you’ve never seen him perform his poetry and you happen to be in London, I highly recommend his event at the Calder Bookshop on Thursday 12th February.

When all is said and done – because of the people who attended, because the room was spacious, the white wine cool and the speeches short, and because the atmosphere was not as depressing as it might have been, given the recent news from the industry – I think this was one of the most agreeable literary parties I’ve been to in years.

AG

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