I’m just back from a great trip overseas, touring in the UK for Body Work. I did a few posts on Facebook along the way but I’ll try to share a few highpoints here.
Also in Hyde Park is a large human-made pond, the Serpentine, filled with all manner of water birds. People come down to feed the birds, and dogs frolic nearby in the shrubs and lawns round-about.
Maddy circled the pond without a lead. She eyed the bread put out for the ducks but on Kerry’s command abandoned it, and never once tried to jump into the Serpentine. I realized that if Callie and I lived in London, we would spend all our time in Magistrate’s Courts, paying fines for jumping in among the birds.
Other dogs: a working dog in Glasgow that stood up and took applause any time Denise Mina or I roused a laugh. An old man walking along the river in Carlisle, with his dog frolicking around him. I followed as long as I could, thinking the scene looked straight out of the opening of Mill on the Floss. A lost dog in Toulouse, trembling with fear because it couldn’t see its mistress. I handed her over to the park maintenance crew, who found her address screwed into a cylinder around her neck and promised to take her home.
Events Natasha Cooper helped me launch Body Work at Waterstones Piccadilly and Denise Mina did the same favor at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. Both women were as interesting and generous in person as they are in print and the audiences responded warmly to the warmth they could feel on the stage.
Two sisters in their eighties attended the Glasgow event. During the Q & A, one commented that the acknowledgements in my books are so long she couldn’t understand why mine is the only name on the jacket cover. However, she stood in line, very erect despite a cane, and bought a book for her baby sister’s 80th birthday.
Bookwitch came to the Mitchell event, and took some lovely photos; thanks to her I can let you see Denise and me in all our glory.
From there we went to Peebles for the Borders book festival, where Alistair Moffat did a Q & A. On his first trip to Chicago, Mr. Moffat was put into Cook County Jail overnight until his wife posted $500 cash for a fender-bender. Myself, I think they were shaken down–I never heard of anyone being locked up in County for a fender-bender. Even so, he generously likes Chicago. And was the most thoughtful interviewer I’ve encountered since the late great Studs.
We finished in the south at the Sandhurst library, where a great audience included a 14-year-old Emily Miles, who kindly helped me out of my windbreaker when the zipper stuck, and found my passport and wallet on the library office floor. I was a tired and lucky writer to have her on board.
Reading on the Road Nancy Pickard’s Scent of Rain and Lightning. Nancy writes elegiacally about the landscape of the Great Plains as she tells a gripping story. Emma Donoghue’s The Room; disturbing, hard to drain the troubling images out of the brain. Edith Pearlman‘s Binocular Vision. These are short stories, exquisite, haunting, satisfying. I started the Tiger’s Wife (not to be confused with the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother) and the Uses and Abuses of Literature. As we grapple with a nation where a quarter of adults can’t read and most people don’t read books, this is a thoughtful look at what literature does and doesn’t do in our lives.
The weather couldn’t have been more glorious for the whole trip. Flowers bloomed, grass was green, trees were in leaf. It was a terrible shock to return to Chicago, where it’s all still brown and cold. In fact, when we landed and the pilot announced that the local temperature was 26 F I wanted to curl up in my seat while the cleaners prepped the plane and return to London. But I climbed off, and now, after going through a 2 1/2 week pile up of mail, dust and laundry, will return obediently to work.