My ex-US editor (from “The Pope’s Rhinoceros”), a college friend I hadn’t seen for twenty years, my agent…. Last night’s reading from “John Saturnall’s Feast” (my first since publishing “In the Shape of a Boar”) felt like an anthology of friends. A packed room at the Bloomsbury Institute heard my fellow-authors Esther Freud and Andrea Stuart in fine voice. Esther read a funny section about actors auditioning in America. Andrea delivered an emotive essay on her part-British, part-Barbadian ancestry. I read from the extract in Granta (the evening’s sponsors) then took questions. Why so long between books? asked one man, reasonably enough, to which I wanted to answer ‘How long have you got?’. A question on ‘Britishness’ set all three of us thinking about locale. All actors want to go to America, answered Esther. And as soon as they get there they all want to come home. The ancestors of those who survived the Middle Passage, Andrea said, are still working out exactly where home is. There was no Britishness in the 1630’s, I answered. People lived in parishes, and tended not to move. Later I remembered the wisest thing ever written by Immanuel Kant: ‘All Mankind’s troubles stem from not staying at home.’
Welcome to my first blog-post. In these posts I hope to document what I’m reading and writing and – given that it’s taken me twelve years to complete my latest novel – communicate a little more frequently with my readers. I’ve written elsewhere on this site about the writer-reader relationship. There’s also an archive section and a list of FAQ’s. What you can’t do here is buy my books. This site isn’t intended as a marketplace but as a forum where anyone interested in my work can find out a little more about how it was created.
Tonight – in about seven hours’ time – I’ll be giving my first public reading in twelve years with Esther Freud and Andrea Stuart. Esther I’ve known since we were both picked for Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists back in 1993 and, appropriately enough, it’s under Granta’s aegis that we’re reading tonight. So now I’m looking through a scene in “John Saturnall’s Feast” and wondering how to squeeze something that takes twelve minutes to read into six….