Friday, 24 February 2012

Reading at Twinge Sharjah

Anne’s flight landed on Saturday afternoon, halfway through the Jordanian weekend. I’d taken the week off work, the first issue of the magazine having gone to the printers and the Web-formatted content alongside a neatly laid out online newsletter duly placed in the hands of the Ministry’s digital team.
Robin didn’t know about the extra effort I’d gone to. I saw no reason to tell him.
Anne didn’t have the ten Dinar visa fee I warned her to have ready for immigration and so she had to change money and queue again, by which time the queue had doubled.  The airline lost one of her bags and she waited by the carousel for an hour before reporting it missing, tracking it down just in time to walk into a bored customs officer who spent an enjoyable half an hour rooting through her underwear and personal effects.
By the time she came around the corner of the partition in arrivals, red-faced and scowling, I had spent two hours nagging the BA duty officer to death. A wave of relief, tenderness and sheer delight washed over me and I ran to her and scooped her up in my arms, laughing and talking gibberish. We pushed her trolley together, arm in arm, through the tatty airport to the car park.
Anne slept in the car as we drove back to Amman and I took care not to wake her until I switched off the engine outside the house. She opened her eyes, glancing around her. She was disoriented, her skin was pale and there were dark smudges under her eyes. She put her hand on my arm, as if to steady herself, and peered up the steps to the house above us.
‘Is this it?’
Olives, Page 101

I'm giving a reading from Olives at TingeSHJ - Twinge Sharjah - the Sharjah Urban Arts Festival, which starts tomorrow at Al Maraya Arts Centre, a really cool artspace at Sharjah's chilled and pretty Al Qasba. I'll be joined by two Emirati writers, Noura Noman and Abdulla Kassim who will be reading from their respective works. The festival is a week-long celebration of the arts (you can click on the picture for more details) featuring, in total, some 50 artists.

I like doing readings. You sort of talk a bit about the background to the book, then explain what happens up to the point where your reading starts. You read an extract from the book as entertainingly as you can for the audience and then take questions. I had to ask writer pal Dan Holloway about how to select readings - he's a great deal more experienced than I am at 'literature as a performance' - he does literary death matches and things - and his advice was keep it short and pick a passage that has a beginning, middle and end but that also has relevance to the story or theme of your story.

At Twinge Dubai I read the scene where Paul Stokes meets Gerald Lynch for the first time. Everyone hates poor old Gerry, which is a shame as he's the main character in my next book, Beirut, so they'd just better get used to him and his little foibles. But that meant I couldn't take the easy option and just read the same thing over. I sat flicking through a copy of the book, biting my lower lip and umming and aaing until it hit me, much like a large wet fish, between the eyes. Paul's English girlfriend Anne's visit to Jordan! I was talking to the TwitBookClub about it last week, it's one of my favourite parts of the book and is a piece of writing I am personally pleased with.

Anne's visit doesn't go well from the very first instant to its explosive conclusion. It's a mean, cold little disaster. And that's my reading for tomorrow. I hope to see you there!

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