So there I was, a bit worried about The Year of the Flood event, especially given that I was traveling halfway across the country to
be there. A mere 188 miles Exeter to Cambridge as the crow flies apparently, but in the absence of a First Great Western Crow I had gone the long way round; sardined on a train, into and across London and out again, all to get my book signed by the real hand holding a real pen.
Nothing electronically fandangled from the other side of the Atlantic for my book.
It could all have gone horribly wrong and the event had suffered very mixed reviews, some fairly cynical verging on derisory and I'll admit to being faint of heart and fearful of a fit of the giggles once the hymn-singing started. These are an intrinsic and, as it transpired, very clever aspect of the book, but until you grasp the essence and purpose they do read slightly All Things Bright & Beautiful and I thought I wasn't going to cope too well with hymns about moles and bees.
Suffice it to say..well no...I'm going to leave the excellent explanations we were given to my expert adviser in all things hymny and churchified... RevCheryl, who will share her insights on the book, the event and her seemingly white-knuckle experience of going book-shopping with me on here tomorrow.
In fact this event, and every one we were assured would be slightly different, was a triumph to my mind, thanks in no small part to the setting but also the organisation and participation of Toppings & Co. the Ely bookshop. The music and the choir (several bookshop staff) were excellent, the actors, who weren't actors (bookshop staff again) read brilliantly, Margaret Atwood narrated and they all just pulled it off.
I think I only laughed when I was meant to.
The masterstroke in the performance being that subtle build up of the book's tension with the well-chosen extracts which actually had me on the edge of my seat (and I'd read the book), and then the clever cut off point...'well I guess you'll have to read the book to find out what happens next.'
This is certainly a new and far more interesting way to promote a book than author reads extract / author answers questions. It takes time and imagination to prepare and no shortage of flair to present well, but imagine this approach for some of those Booker shortlisters? Coetzee? Wolf Hall?
So how many writers could guarantee to pack out a Cathedral this size?
Margaret Atwood, diminutive and perfectly deadpan in her delivery but very funny with it (though I did keep worrying she was going to step backwards off that stage) and the book-signing queue must have stretched the length of the nave.
Towards the end I thought I heard panicky PR people whispering to sound engineers behind me, it was running late, there wouldn't be time for her to sign the books... sorry, over my dead body was Margaret Atwood leaving that Cathedral without signing my book.
Shamefully I was prepared to behave badly in a Cathedral that much was immediately evident, and I can only apologise to the people I may have left trampled in my wake as I fair flew across that transept to the signing queue...I've read the book, this is survival of the fittest I've been trained for after all.
Can you begin to imagine what I was like in the milk queue at school? Speed was of the essence if you were going to get a bottle with a coloured top and not a plain silver one.
It was a great comfort to see that RevCheryl wasn't far behind.
Margaret Atwood knew me from Twitter where I 'follow' her and where dovegreyreader is tweeted when I remember to tick the box and we had a brief exchange about all that, though I was a bit stupidly dumbstruck which is very unusual for me, but perhaps I was also a mite relieved that she hadn't taken me to one side and whispered menacingly
' now just you look here, only my best friends call me Peggy ... alright'.
This event all part of a three month long tour to promote The Year of the Flood and so far it looks as if Peggy is having a jolly good time and I would add it was worth every single mile that I traversed England to actually be there and my thanks again to RevCheryl for her enabling hospitality.
An interesting question and answer session at the end included a tactful, verging on cheeky enquiry from the Topping's compere about the possibility of a third book to accompany this one along with Oryx and Crake and given that Margaret Atwood approaches her seventieth birthday...' what you mean as I creep towards the grave' she quipped.
Tomorrow RevCheryl's take on the event and that will be us over our bout of dovegreyreader hyperAtwooditis here as we await whatever comes next.