Tuesday, March 17, 2009

King's Lynn

On the road again … The King’s Lynn Fiction Festival. An hour in a school, with not very responsive teenage boys, a panel discussion about whether literature should civilise, educate or neither, (short answer – both, through the medium of empathy), a reading from the new book (TENDER, published by Salt – I may have mentioned it), and a panel discussion around six Desert Island books. Lovely weekend. Well, lovely maybe wouldn’t be the word for the school. One boy proudly told me he’d never read a book in his life, which surprised his teacher, since he’s doing English GCSE. And he’ll probably get a decent pass too. Rest of the weekend though – lovely is the right word.

We were met on the station, Friday lunch-time, by a piper and champagne. Why a piper? Why not? It’s that sort of Festival. Booze flowed freely all weekend, and the food was good too. Talked children (mine) and grandchildren (hers) with Beryl Bainbridge, talked of sadly departed Malcolm Bradbury with Christopher Bigsby, talked of crime novelist John Dickson Carr with Jill Paton Walsh, talked Hawthornden castle and other things with Sophie Hannah, talked about those old days with Bloomsbury (publishers, not febrile literary coterie) with DJ Taylor, and chatted happily with Rachel Hore, Tessa West and Anthony Grey. And with all sorts of friends of the Festival and audience members too, because that’s one of the best things about it – you don’t sit behind a table, signing (or not signing) books, you just mill about, chatting. Did sell 20 books though. And stayed with a very nice guy who had a full-size Dalek called Salvador in his kitchen. So that was good.

And my six Desert Island books? They were Bleak House, Dubliners, Ragtime, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Passion, The Road. Could have been six equally valid, entirely different ones of course, but they felt like good choices at the time. Sophie was off to Australia on a book tour on the Monday, Chris was just back from France. I go to Macclesfield and King’s Lynn. And like it.


michelle thomas said...

Hmmm, that is surprising about the boy who never read a book. Speaking of books, I just found your website and am thrilled. When I was in college I found your book, "A Chinese Summer" at a small book store in a tiny town in Indiana (USA) of all places. I searched for other books you have written on and off for years, but I finally found a list! It is difficult to find your books here in the US, unfortunately. Any chance you will make an audiobook? I am a painter and I love to listen to books while I paint.
I am rambling, I know. I just wanted to tell you that your first book was one that I wanted to put on my "top 5 of all time" books, but it wasn't listed as an option (facebook aplication). Thank you for writing and taking the pains to publish your writing. I am looking forward to reading your other books now that I have found them.

Mark Illis said...

Thanks Michelle,that's very good to hear. Books (mine anyway) seem to fall into a great black pond and disappear when they're published, so it's lovely to know they had some effect. I wrote Chinese Summer in my early twenties, so it feels like a different person is responsible for it, but I still feel very affectionate towards it, more than twenty years later.

No plans for an audiobook, but I hope you enjoy TENDER ...