Trains and coffee. Hot sky. Kensington Olympia: a greenhouse labyrinth, a pleasant Hell.
Barcoded enthusiasm. Stands, displays, declarations, theatre. I wander.
I’m soon lost. The floor plan creases up. Everyone else seems to know where they are. They exhibit the smiling purposefulness of the comfortably off.
OUP offers trustworthy sources.
Omnibus Press offers three masked men.
The London Stereoscopic Company offers 3D Adventures in Hell.
Miraculous stairs lead me to the first floor. Author HQ. I’m early. I tweet about the fact. #interesting
I bide my time with etcetera.
A phantom has materialised. Warm grin, tweed jacket. “Are you James?” @Elhombredetweed is Mauricio Montiel Figueiras. He is affably real, as is his girlfriend, Ana Luelmo.
Now the stairs bring @george_szirtes, struggling with a trolley suitcase that wants to be elsewhere.
We’re all here.
Julio Trujillo is chair. Words of introduction: Internet, social media, reading and writing habits. Short literary texts posted on Twitter.
We start with readings of our work.
George stands and reads some selections of linked tweets. The London Book Fair curls up, licks its paws, watches little birds circling just out of reach.
Mauricio introduces the Man of Tweed, who takes up residence in our skulls, rearranging some of the furniture so he can sit by the window and look down at the Street of Dreams.
My turn. I cough up the Bird King. He flounders on the floor, wings wrecked, head a mess.
The people in the audience seem to like us. Their faces are friendly. Some take photos or tweet.
Then the serious business of discussion. A mic is passed round. I’m reminded of the conch in Lord of the Flies. But this is a civilised colloquy. We talk about the characteristics of Twitterature, its liberation of whimsy, the power of masks, the creative dialogue between reader and writer. Julio asks how Twitter affects the way people think. Big question, little time. Questions from the floor.
Our allotted time is up.
George, me and Mauricio
I can’t provide a comprehensive or objective account of the discussion George, Mauricio and I had at Author HQ. My memories of the event won’t stay still. They scuttle under chairs. Some of them seem to have escaped. But then, who can say for certain what happened last year or yesterday or one minute ago?
An Italian restaurant. Mauricio, Ana, George, me. Shared starters. I struggle to cut up some prosciutto. Red wine. The conversation ranges widely. Sátántangó. W G Sebald. Samuel Beckett. Cats. Wrestling. Children’s books. Maurice Sendak. Twitterature (of course). Mina Polen. Viviana Hinojosa. Aspects of Mexican culture. Film noir. Nosferatu.The Vampyr. Pink Floyd – The Wall. Sam Riviere. My companions wear their intellect and erudition lightly. They are interesting, likeable, generous. I am among friends.
Mauricio insists on paying the bill. He had invited George and me to the London Book Fair, to speak at today’s event. I cannot thank him enough.
Me, Mauricio, Ana and George
The day stretches and looks around. It needs to move on. George has a flight to catch and I’m meeting my brother near Paddington. The two of us head for Kensington Olympia Station. Along the way, we chat. George’s trolley suitcase objects to being dragged across London, and it digs its heels in whenever it can.
Another train. Night. Home bound. A gift from George: Uncle Zoltán, a book of tweets. I’m tired. I close my eyes between chapters. Reading in short bursts. The little book sketches a world.
The train clatters into tomorrow.