"Something you never thought might happen: after a certain number of years the being who has read all these neglected books will step from your bookshelves, will sit down at your table (conveniently adjacent), will make a cup of coffee at the machine, having seen you use it so many times, especially when about to tackle a book, and will light a cigarette, insubstantial as steam, the odour of which will affect neither your carpets nor curtains. It will be the opposite of you, your inverse."
On 11 March I talked a bit about Oulipo with Lauren Elkin and read a story (extract above) at Shakespeare and Company Bookshop Paris. My story was inspired by George Perec's Voyage D'Hiver and its many responses, some of which can be found here, and also by Perec's and contemporary Oulipian Anne Garréta's essays on bookshelves. Referencing the Voyage D'Hiver tradition as well as hinting at Oulipo's obsession with 'potential' literature, I called it 'Un Voyage Vers...' (A Journey Towards...)
I made a limited edition of signed and numbered prints of the story, hand-lettered, with the above illustration. A few of the sepia edition of 10 are still available at the till at Shakespeare & Co. I also have an edition of 10 in rust as shown above. The print comes in the form of an A4 size booklet with the pic on the front so you can put it on your wall when you've read it if you feel inclined. If you'd like one, they're £7 - or a if it's easier buy me a book from here. The price includes postage anywhere in the world. Please get in touch by leaving a message below or emailing badaude-at-gmail-dot-com.
Here's pic from the event. Seems like we had a lot of fun.
(thanks to Shakespeare & Co for the photo)
I launched my book, London Walks!
45 bottles of champage were ordered. I missed most of it as I'm not really experienced enough to do drinking before talking to large groups of people.
(afterwards is no problem, obviously).
I had a 'brushing' (French for blow-dry) specially for the occasion. I've never had one before, always having thought there's something a bit wimpy about not being able to dry your own hair - but after three nights in the writer's room at the bookshop I was beginning to look a little untidy...
I talked about 'How to be a Tourist' - a short lecture involving a race between a lobster and a turtle (wind-up only I'm afraid)...
...some rather unpleasant leisure-wear...
...and Psychogeographic games (the pic below may not look entirely like a Psychogeographic game but it is, honest).
...I ended the night sitting under the stars on a quai of the Seine with Shakespeare and Company Tumbleweeds until they switched the lights off opposite on Notre Dame.
This morning I woke up with a pocket full of pens. None of them were mine. I guess this is what happens when you do a booksigning.
I'll be doing a slightly longer an even odder version of this talk at the Idler Academy tomorrow, Wednesday 1 June. Book in advance mentioning 'Lobster' (or typing it on the booking page) for £5 off. If you're in London tomorrow, don't miss it!
All photos (c) Lauren Goldenberg of Shakespeare and Company - more of her photos of the event here.
I thought it was all over yesterday - but it wasn't. Bookshop owner/manager, Sylvia thought there could be one adjustment: "It's Ginsberg's big hairy bottom. It may be because it's white but - when you look at the window - it's all you can see!"
Conceding that it might be wiser, I turned the other cheek and erased one of his, redrawing it in white line.
Here's the before:
Here's the after:
Which do you prefer?
And here's the final whole thing:
but I'm just working on a final detail - more later...
It's pretty Christmassy round here today, what with the tap dancing demo in the shop this afternoon and the mulled wine, so - from your suggestions for what James Joyce should be playing on the piano - The Lass of Aughrim from The Dead nearly won out until I found this:
IN 1888, A CONCERT in aid of the local Boat Club was held at Breslin’s Hotel on the Esplanade in Bray, County Wicklow. Among the performers were the six-year-old Joyce James, resplendent in his new Little Lord Fauntleroy suit. As the Wicklow Newsletter reported a few days later, little James sang a popular comic Christmas ditty, ‘Houlihan’s Cake’. This is clearly a slightly garbled variant of what was once described as a ‘capital Irish convivial song’, ‘Miss Hoolihan’s Christmas Cake’, which could then be bought on the streets as a penny broadsheet.
(from the blog Ireland's other poetry).
The idea was irresistable and apparently echoes of the song did make it into Joyce's later work:
he did allude to it in his last book, Finnegans Wake. On page 58, buried in a passage bulging with in musical quotations, you will find a sentence that takes as inspiration the first line of the song’s chorus: ‘Swiping rums and beaunes and sherries and ciders and negus and citronnades too.’ And if that wasn’t enough, another mangling of the same line appears on page 288, in one of the entirely unilluminating notes with which the author furnished that part of the book: ‘They were plumped and plumed and jerried and citizens and racers, and cinnamondhued.'
And here's my pic.
I'll have finished the whole thing tomorrow!
F Scott Fitzgerald...
Once drew a picture of the party in Paris (arranged by Sylvia Beach) at which he met his hero, James Joyce.
"Sylvia Beach hosted a dinner party in order that F. Scott Fitzgerald, who worshipped James Joyce, but was afraid to approach him, might do so. Out of nervousness or champagne, Fitzgerald greeted his hero by dropping down on one knee, kissing his hand, and declaring, How does it feel to be a great genius, Sir? I am so excited at seeing you, Sir,that I could weep."
But imagine if he’d invited other English language writers living in Paris (I'm not going to be strict about dates here).
Turns out James Joyce played the piano, which would have been useful for entertainment...
...and he might have brought along his friend, Ezra Pound who might sing a seasonal song:
Winter is icumin in
Lhude sing Goddamn,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham
Damn you, Sing, Goddamn.
Goddamn, Goddamn, 'tis why I am,
So 'gainst the winter's balm.
Sing goddamn, damn, sing goddamn,
Sing goddamn, sing goddamn, DAMN!
Jean Rhys knew all about what to drink...
... as did E Hemingway’s, whose cat seems to have been fond of white wine.
Edith Wharton scrubbed up rather well and was fond of high-end gatherings...
...as was Ford Maddox Ford
Anais Nin preferred fancy-dress parties
... or at the very least a dramatic tenue
...as did Janet Flanner
...and Djuna Barnes.
Allen Ginsberg was likely to wear even less conventional costumes (this photo was taken at his 39th birthday party).
(Barry Miles recalls Ginsberg getting very drunk, stripping off
completely, putting his underpants on his head and hanging a ‘do not disturb’ sign to his penis.)
William S Burroughs, by contrast, seemed reluctant to take off his hat even indoors.
James Baldwin would just turn up and look elegant...
...as would Henry Miller
Of course Sylvia Beach would be on hand, making sure everything went smoothly:
Assisted by her girlfriend and fellow-bookseller, Adrienne Monnier
As well as current owners, George and Sylvia Whitman
And their team.
Why am I telling you all this? Sylvia Whitman of Shakespeare and Company has commissioned me to draw a Christmas window at the bookshop, based on F Scott Fitzgerald’s sketch. Here's my (very) rough sketch of a Literary Feast:
I’ll be trying to translate all this onto the bookshop windows of Shakespeare and Company from Friday 3rd December.
Please come along and watch. I’ll be there all day on Friday 2nd, Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th December. I'll knock off each day when it gets dark and I'll be posting the results.
Shakespeare and Company, 37 Rue Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France
01 43 25 40 93
Metro St Michel
More from Shakespeare and Company's first music night.
The bookshop's a small venue and we're packed in with a load more people on the pavement outside. As illustrator I'm lucky to have a reserved cushion right at the front (with a great view of the performers' shoes). Down here at the epicentre, there's a spellbinding calm as the melancholy love songs mix with the dreams, memories and regrets of the audience...
More from Shakespeare and Company tomorrow.