Tuesday, 2 September 2008

there’s no point in not being friends with someone if you want to be friends with them

Being a writer and all (nope, don’t feel comfortable saying that yet) I know I should get out there and get my voice heard and absorb inspiration and encouragement from fellow scribes but I find I’m too shy and unsure of myself, still, at thirty. In addition, my cringe tolerance is extremely low and if I find myself trapped in some art café listening to ‘sensitive’ souls reading rubbish poetry about broken hearts (if you really had a broken heart you’d be at home, eating cake on the floor in front of the fridge, watching Sex and the City and crying every ten minutes) then I know I’ll just end up turning bright red and grinding my teeth with embarrassment until I’m asked to leave.

It is with trepidation then that I attend there’s no point in not being friends with someone if you want to be friends with them in the basement of the Deaf Institute. (I don’t know what the name of the night is a reference to, anyone?). The lovely Emma Unsworth is reading from her novel tonight and our mutual friend Katie has invited us along to show support and so here we are. And goddamit if it isn’t all a lovely surprise. There is nothing mortifying at all, in fact nothing even approaching mediocre, my molars remain unground for the entire evening. What a talented bunch of writers.

The night is put on by Sally Cook and Chris Killen. Chris is a Waterstones employee, author of Day of Moustaches, and forthcoming novel, The Bird Room. I had heard of him prior to this night after reading a short piece in my favourite publication in the world ever, The South Manchester Reporter, which described how Chris met Steven Hall, author of The Raw Shark Texts, in the Deansgate Waterstones where he works (and which features, circuitously enough, in Hall’s novel) and persuaded him to read the manuscript of The Bird Room. Apparently a lovely guy, Hall did just that and this act of kindness has resulted in Mr Killen getting a book deal with Canongate, a story which is both inspiring and depressing, but a success I’m certain is well-deserved. I’m very much looking forward to reading it.

Anyway, the readings. Emma’s opening chapter was intriguing, atmospheric, funny and put me in mind of Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges are not the only fruit in the way it keeps your eyes at a child’s level with just a few deft touches of detail. Some wonderful short stories, plenty of breaks for wine and cigs, and two particular highlights for me. The first being the excellent (and published, thankyou very much) poet Annie Clarkson, a Lancastrian turned Mancunian, just like me. She read a selection of absolutely wonderful poems in a voice you could happily live in. My favourite one is luckily featured in the link above and is one of the sexiest and most disarming pieces of poetry I’ve read in ages. Gave me shivers of a most unnecessary kind. I had to go and congratulate her afterwards. The other highlight was the stand-up slot filled by Ben Davis and his brother. Really funny, dry and unexpected humour delivered in a subtle and confident way that I truly believe means this guy is headed for stardom. See him in tiny venues while you still can.

Next month’s promises to relocate from the awfully hot and overfilled basement to a bigger better venue somewhere, as it deserves. Will I, should I, can I make myself read something there? Gosh darnit, courage, where are you?

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