the Post-Dr and I fulfilled an invitation to a book launch, which led us to a room populated by the great and bespectacled of the Manchester literature scene. it was at a bookshop.
as usual, everyone was wearing pumps. did you know that the heeled shoe was actually invented by George Bush Snr, as a weapon, during the first Iraq war? most were also afraid of a potential tax on surplus trouser material. a woman carried around and wore her baby like a badge of extra special hipness, and encouraged it to ‘express’ during the readings.
four young male writers read some things they’d written. two out of the four things were to do with trains, but i think that was incidental.
the first was a charming, shy and softly-spoken man who offered a charming, shy and softly-spoken poem about being humble and alone and not alone. it was a lot better than i’ve made it sound. i laughed.
the second reader was a slighter male with a shirt that an American would call ‘plaid’. i think it was blue, but i could be misremembering – i did not write it down. his ‘thing’ as he called it, was ‘new’, which meant printed on a sheet of paper rather than in a book. it was about an interview at a job centre. i liked him and it.
at that point the not-so-funny MC who continually made reference to his being fat, declared it ‘half time’ and invited us for the twentieth time to drink up all the beer – ‘cos there’s plenty of beer and after this we’ll all go to the pub anyway ‘cos beer is great and we’re not at all the sort of people who wouldn’t always drink it or have it at a book launch.
the second half started with my least favourite of the readings. it was another new one on paper and seemed to be an extract from an as yet unfinished story about someone with newly-fitted prothetic legs – possibly (although this was subtext) because of a war – who was arriving at a place in Cheshire.
i can’t remember what the place in Cheshire was called, but the name was mentioned too many times. although the author-cum-reader had a pleasant northwest accent, he did that thing where he made his voice all thin and lingered over the sounds at the end of sentences to make sure that every tee and ess came with the requisite emotional punch. i hate that thing, and the story took itself too seriously for my liking. it was full of fashionably off-beat similes, like the conversation of a public school boy on soft drugs.
the final reader was the author of the book that was being launched, rather than another of his friends, and read from that, his latest, book. he had a beard and a voice reminiscent of Jack Whitehall’s voice. his name is Socrates, which, presumably to avoid confusion with the other two, is pronounced with a long ‘ahhh’.
his novel apparently unfolds the tale of a tube salesman who is forced by his boss to take a tube home and treat it like a baby. instead of reading the opening section of the book, which he implied would have been his instinct, he followed the advice of others and read from elsewhere in the book. as such, i do not know why the boss forced the man to mother the tube, although it’s possible, perhaps likely, that i wouldn’t have anyway.
what i heard was fine; not quite pretentious enough to be like Kafka, not down-to-earth enough to be like Dan Rhodes. it was not, from what i heard, as good as either, despite what everyone was saying and how much they were laughing.
we would have gone to the pub for all the beer with the lit-folk, but we hadn’t had any tea, so we went home.