Tuesday 27 January 2009

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher - Take Two

I don’t tend to go to the same book reading twice – but yesterday was an exception, and I was delighted to hear again Kate Summerscale talk about The Suspicions of Mr Whicher at the Chelsea Arts Club. It was just pure coincidence, as I haven’t even read the book. Unlike the previous event I attended at the Calder Bookshop, this was an open dialogue with the audience rather than a straight talk. In general, I think that a dialogue with readers is more satisfactory than hearing a writer's monologues.

Elisabetta and I were invited to the Chelsea Arts Club by Penny Wools, who looks after the club’s art exhibitions. I had never been there, and was slightly taken aback when, after arriving late and sitting towards the back of the room, I was confronted by an obscene painting of a red-haired woman with the most enormous boobs. I looked around in dismay, and even dirtier pictures were hanging from the walls. This was in stark contrast to the demure-looking members of the public.

After the event and a quick drink or two, we had a lovely dinner with Penny, Sarah (the literary-event organizer), Kate Summerscale, plus Richard Charkin and Alexandra Pringle of Bloomsbury (accompanied by their spouses). I enjoyed everybody’s company, but it was especially good to see Richard again after our fleeting appearance at the Canon Tales in July last year, and to get to know him better. As well as talking about Cricket, Rugby and the accuracy of management accounts, he gave us some fiendishly good tips, debunking once and for all some widely accepted publishing categories.

“Quirky”, he explained, means either “unsalable” or “loss-making”.

“Edgy”, possibly from the Old Norse aidg for “unkempt” or “untidy”, is another way of saying “terrible”.

“Authoritative” is “good”.

“Boring” = “profitable”.

After the delicious meal, it was time to settle the bill and go back to Richmond. Elisabetta went up to pay and came back looking crestfallen, saying she had “lost her card”.

“A stroke of genius”, I thought. “That’s why I’ve married you.” But then I realized that she was serious, so I ended up on the phone to our bank, ricocheting from one department to another – a pathetic end to an otherwise most enjoyable and memorable evening.


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