I was just sitting there, not stirring, not even breathing, like the pub's pet reptile, when who should sit down opposite me but Martin Amis, the writer. He had a glass of wine, and a cigarette - also a book, a paperback. It looked quite serious. So did he, in a way. small, compact, wears his rug fairly long ...I love the way Martin Amis gives himself a cameo role in Money, and uses it to such comical effect. (His dad, of course was Kingsley Amis). Auster is another author who walks into his own novels. Can you think of any others? I must have a go at fictionalising myself ... a nice writing exercise.
I was feeling friendly, as I say, so I yawned, sipped my drink and whispered 'Sold a million yet?'
He looked up at me with a flash of paranoia, unusual in its candour, its bluntness. I don't blame him really, in this pub. It's full of turks, nutters, martians. The foreigners around here. I know they don't speak English - okay, but do they even speak Earthling? They speak stereo, radio crackle, interference. They speak sonar, bat-chirrup, pterodactylese, fish-purr.
'Sorry,' he said.
'Sold a million yet?"
He relaxed. His off-centre smile refused to own up to something.
'Be serious,' he said.
'What you sell then?'
'Oh, a reasonable amount.'
I burped and shrugged. I burped again. 'Fuck,' I said 'Pardon me.' I yawned, I stared around the pub. He returned to his book.
'Hey,' I said 'Every day, do you ...Do you sort of do it every day, writing? Do you set yourself a time and stuff?'
'I wish I could stop fucking burping,' I said. He started reading again.
'Hey,' I said 'When you, do you sort of make it up, or is it just, you know, like what happens?'
'Autobigraphical,' I said. 'I haven't read any of your books. There's, I don't really get that much time for reading.'
'Fancy,' he said. He started reading again.
'Hey,' I said, 'Your dad's a writer too, isn't he? Bet that made it easier.'
'Oh sure. it's just like taking over the family pub.'
I have been meaning to read Money (also sometimes subtitled A Suicide Note) for years and finally bought a copy a few months ago.
In case you're wondering how this highly acclaimed and best-selling novel slipped past me ... well in 1984 when the book was published, I was living in a small town in Malaysia and didn't hear the buzz about it. The bookshops in KL (Berita, Times, Guardian Pharmacy) carried such a limited range of best-sellers. I missed so much good stuff and now have to go back and fill in the gaps. (The TBR Challenge is very useful!)
But progress is slow. Because a) It's the sort of book where you want to read each sentence carefully to enjoy the style - I love the voice, the energy and the poetry of the writing, and b) it is my "bag book" i.e. I am not allowed to read it at home ... just in cafes, on the LRT and during moments when "real life" is Dullsville. (Yesterday I was at Immigration getting my yearly stamp, and read a fair whack.)
At home, I have to get on and read the stuff I need to read ... for reviews, interviews, blurbing, editing and proofreading. And these are also the copies I musn't spill stuff on and can't let get scrunched up and dog-eared in the chaos of my big bag.
(How ironic the other day that I remembered my novel, but not my purse. I had Money, but no money, haha.)
Among my other reads - The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng, which I am very much enjoying and am nearly two-thirds through. (It's a substantial read!). But since this is presently sub-judice, I can't say any more about it for now. Also Dina Zaman's I Am Muslim which I'm proofreading, and which is informing and delighting me even as I scribble corrections on it.
More about all of these reads in the fullness of time.
But more importantly, what are YOU reading?