Thursday, 7 April 2011
I visited writer Elif Batuman's (The Possessed) blog this morning to check when she is going to be doing a platform appearance (it's at the Festival Hall on Mon April 11) and read her entry for when she was in London a month or so ago. She writes about meeting Molly Parkin which evoked the following memory: I got a job as a feature writer on the Look pages of the Sunday Times in 1968/9 with Molly Parkin, Lucia (How To Spend It) van der Post, Mark Boxer and Hunter Davies. My first day in the office, aged 24, nervous, neat and clean, dotting my ‘i’s and crossing my ‘t’s – the door burst open and it was Molly pissed as a newt waving a bottle of champagne just rolled in after a very long lunch with editor Harold Evans now of NYC parish seemingly having undergone a male menopausal motorbiking transformation and married Tina Brown – in fact, travelled backwards in his own lifetime: the theme, as it turns out, of my comments this morning.I heard about The Possessed from Damion Searles, writer and translator of NYC, on a visit to a redundant nuclear test site at Orford Ness during the tribute weekend to W G Sebald at Snape Maltings in Jan. I went straight into the bookshop in Aldeburgh to buy it – not in stock – but found it on the shop’s computer on Amazon and the proprietor and I couldn’t get past the cover – we both thought it must be a strip cartoon. But once I got the book I stayed up until 3am reading it, being a frequent visitor to Russia and Central Asia 1960-2000, often with writers, I wept with laughter and recognition. Elif Batuman is a genius. By the way, the portrait of the cavalier on Elif's blog post is a detail, one of two brothers dressed up to the nines ( the sons of the Duke of Richmond I seem to remember), in an enormous life -size full- length portrait, – both were killed in the Civil War I believe – , which hangs in a school called Cobham Hall in Kent, former home of the Earls of Darnley, where my daughters went. Elif is appearing 'In Conversation' at the Galway Literary Festival shortly with Geoff Dyer whose ‘Out of Sheer Rage’ is my favourite book next to The Possessed. And The Tap Dancer by Andrew Barrow for some reason.