|Image: Leap in the Dark|
It was back to work for me yesterday after a couple of hell-raising days off work. I was through in Glasgow on Tuesday and got back late on Wednesday afternoon, my mood one of cheery ridiculousness after a day out with my sister, a few beverages partaken, and a superb gig at the Barrowlands—Supergrass bidding a fond farewell to their Scottish fans.
We started our day in the Clockwork Pub on Glasgow’s south side. I’d had an easy start to the day and after dumping my overnight gear at my sister’s we headed round to the pub and commenced the proceedings. Several pints were consumed before we ordered dinner: pizza for me and scampi and chips for my sister.
When the food arrived it looked delicious. And it was. My sister’s, however, arrived minus any sachets of tartar sauce, so (and I kid ye not), she complained vociferously to the manager before running home and returning with a jar of tartar she had in her fridge. Mission accomplished, and so embarrassed was the waiter, we got a free round of drinks for our efforts. Cue double vodka and Red Bulls.
After a few more voddies we piled into a taxi and raced towards the Barrowlands. The place was sold out for the last ever Scottish gig by Supergrass since they are formally calling it a day after this tour. They divided the set into their album years and played a selection from each. It was a novel way to do it but it also meant the craziness never really hit the heights until the latter half of the gig. All the great ones were there: Moving, Richard III, Alright, and of course, Pumping On Your Stereo to name a small few.
Into Wednesday and after an easy morning at my sisters that included a leisurely brunch in Ludovics, I was back home by 5pm and painting my wife’s studio (coat number four) by 6pm. We used one-coat paint but still it will need more coverage. The walls are in a terrible state but it has to be done and it is getting better day by day.
And so it was back to work yesterday. It felt like a Monday having been off for two days, but it was also quite good because it meant I was only two days from the real weekend. I started late and finished early—it’s been months since I could so I took advantage.
Last night I went to an event at the Traverse Theatre just off Lothian Road. Yann Martel was in town to promote his new book, Beatrice and Virgil, in association with Canongate press and Waterstone’s.
After reading a short extract surrounding the make-up of a pear, Martel discussed the book with host Richard Holloway, and inevitably, the effect that winning the Man Booker Prize with Life of Pi had on his life.
Beatrice And Virgil has taken him five years to write, the first two years after his big win being spent on the road touring and not writing a thing. It’s pitched as taking the reader on an imaginative odyssey, on the way asking profound questions about life and art, truth and deception, responsibility and complicity. It forces us to look in-depth at the human capacity for cruelty and examine our own ability to react to it. Unknown to me, it also centres around the Holocaust, which led to a couple of very tight and loaded questions from the audience, mainly concerned about the absence of Israel in the book and the fact that the subject matter has been seen by some to have been treated poorly with a story told through animals. Martel’s defence was admirable, referencing the lost art of the allegory and the innocence and non-judgmental approach that we, as humans, have towards violent animals as opposed to violent humans.
Martel confirmed that Life Of Pi is definitely being made into a movie, an announcement that was met with a lot of ooh’s and aah’s from the audience. He also talked about his mission to educate the current Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, who it appears hasn’t picked up a book since his early twenties. Martel revealed he has been sending Harper books of all possible genres and types along with a handwritten letter to Harper every two weeks for the past three years. And when Martel is not in town other Canadian writers take up the task.
Martel argues how anyone can possibly be a leader without ever seeing the other person’s point of view, without seeing things from someone else’s skin, without travelling or reading literature. Fiction analyses the human condition, therefore, how can we trust anyone in such a position of power to make the right decisions if their minds are closed to such things. “What does Harper dream of if his imagination is not being used?” he says, and it’s a good point he makes. Following it through in the manner he does should be applauded in my opinion.
Rather tellingly, Martel has not heard a thing from Harper—no letter, email, phone call, zip.
It was a fascinating 75 minutes but I didn’t stay for the signing, preferring to head off home for a cup of tea and to reflect on Martel’s words. Looking back I don’t feel I really connected with him. He won the Booker in 2002 and spent two years touring. Fair enough, it changed his life and comes with the territory when you turn a relatively decent selling book into a multi-million pound entity. But five years to write what is actually a very short novel that claims to be so very deep and philosophical, seems to me to be a bit fearful, and dare I say it, arrogant. I‘m not at all surprised he’s getting bad press but I do hope the book does well. Maybe if he just wrote more he wouldn’t feel as though he was up against it so much.
I’ll be heading home early later today and I’m going to enjoy my weekend immensely. The Leith Festival kicks off tonight and tomorrow is the Gala Day. It should be a great day.
Until tomorrow—peace out!