Friday, 28 January 2011

Paradoxical Undressing, Scratch'n'Sniff, and being interviewed.

It's been an interesting week of culture. On Monday I went to see Kristin Hersh perform. She read from Rat Girl, which over here is called Paradoxical Undressing, and played some songs. Afterwards I queued, mainly to get my copy of Paradoxical Undressing signed, but also because I wanted to give Kristin a copy of Before I Go to Sleep. In some hard-to-define way her music was one of the things that helped me realise that to not devote my energy to writing was in some way selling my self short, and she's been a constant artistic inspiration since I first heard Hunkpapa in the eighties. Whether she'll like it or not I don't know, but in some ways that doesn't really matter. I just wanted to give her a copy.

I've also been back to Scratch'n'Sniff. Another great night, marred slightly by me dousing myself in the scent I bought after the last event ('Eau de Gloire') which, despite sniffing coffee beans like mad to try and get my nostrils working (‘They’re broken!’ I said at one point) rendered  me incapable of detecting the nuances in the scents that everyone else could. It was another great night, though. I think there’s something really lovely about an event held in a bar but that is dedicated to something as nebulous, yet fundamental and evocative, as scent. We chatted to two women with whom we were sharing a table, which is another lovely thing about the night: it’s not often that people chat so freely at events held in bars. I suppose everyone there is united by a love of, or at least appreciation for, scent. The theme was ‘Around the World’ so we went on an olfactory expedition to Russia, Morocco, Indonesia, Japan, The Alps and India, all in the capable hands of Odette Toilette and the ‘curator’ of Les Senteurs  (a specialist scent shop near Victoria), before coming back to land in the Shoreditch rain feeling thoroughly refreshed. It really is amazing the way scent can transport us, both in time and place (the smell of baking bread takes me back to a holiday in Torquay when I was about seven; the smell of bubblegum transports me even further, to a time and place I can't quite pin down specifically, but which is very real and the same every time) but smell is a sense that's rarely written about - perhaps because it's very hard to do so. Suskind did it brilliantly with Perfume, of course, but I don't know of any other novels that really deal with smell. Does anyone else? 

Finally, yesterday I spent an enjoyable afternoon with Sara, a very lovely journalist who is profiling me and the book for an overseas magazine. It was a lot of fun - and as we chatted about the book I soon forgot the microphone on the table between us (we'll see whether that's a good thing or a bad thing when the article comes out!) Sara has read Before I Go to Sleep twice, which was lovely to hear. I'm a great re-reader (some books I've read five, six, seven times) and I felt a thrill of delight  when, presuming she'd had to in order to research her article, I asked her why she'd read it again and she said 'Because I wanted to!' It really is lovely to hear that people have enjoyed the book, and to hear they've enjoyed it twice is even better!

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