Well OK, Marvin Gaye wasn’t there of course, but it was good fun all the same.
Last night, I went to the launch of OVERHEARD: stories to read aloud at The Betsey Trotwood in Clerkenwell. It’s an impressive collection, edited by Jonathan Taylor – also our MC for the evening – with 38 contributors (if I’ve counted right) ranging from the likes of Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie to expert ‘flashistas’ like Tania Hershman to the oral storyteller Katherine Rogers, and with any number of good and different voices in between. OVERHEARD is available and on general sale courtesy of those resurgent, independent and wonderfully human publishers Salt.
About half the authors were there in person to read extracts from their stories (or the whole thing, if they were very short.) It would be unfair to single out anyone as such, but I would like to mention two names I’d not heard of until last night: Alexandros Plasatis – whose hilarious, 18-certificate tale Confessions of a Great Lover brought the house down – and Emma J Lannie’s quieter but no less arresting ‘short short’ One Two.
On the tube home I read Jonathan’s introduction. Better for you to buy the book and read it than for me to paraphrase here, but it raised some thoughtful and interesting points about the traditions of oral storytelling and distinctions between public ‘performance’ and stories read aloud intimately at home. This picked up on something I’d been thinking about during the evening. In the first half, I sat at the front, close to the reader and the mic, and was aware of concentrating on the performance. But in the second I was at the back – oddly it seemed more as if I was listening ‘one on one’.
Stories on the radio – or good ones, anyway – have a bit of both experiences. Actors read them, so even with the lightest directorial touch performance is built in to some extent, but there’s the one-on-one intimacy too, since what we’re aiming for is a story for about 400,000 single listeners.
Readings aside, the craic was good, too. It’s always nice to catch up with the likes of Jen Hamilton-Emery (Salt), Tania H and Vanessa Gebbie but great also to meet some ‘onliners’ in the flesh for the first time like Alison MacLeod, Elizabeth Baines and Katy Darby. And the barman downstairs gave me a brief, knowledgeable and passionate tutorial on single malts …
Next week’s post will have a Scandinavian flavour – big time. But until then, thanks for reading.