Friday, February 08, 2008

Sarfraz Manzoor at Central Library

To Manchester Central Library last night to hear Guardian journalist and documentary maker Sarfraz Manzoor talking about and reading from his memoir of growing up in seventies and eighties Luton, Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock and Roll.

Manzoor is an engagingly honest speaker. He told us that he had written the book as a celebration of ordinariness, something he hadn't found in the biographies he's read as a schoolboy, which had made him feel excluded. He told us how he'd got published: a big literary agency, noting his writing in the Guardian, had written and asked him if he'd like to write a book.

Looking round the audience, many of whom had read his book beforehand, I saw row upon row of fondly smiling faces, but then some joker - whom I think knew Manzoor personally - pricked the bubble somewhat satirically and tipped the evening into laughter. But how could Manzoor call himself ordinary? he asked: Wasn't that why his book was published, for the very reason that he isn't ordinary now? And how, therefore, the speaker seemed to be implying, could his book be read as being about the ordinary, after all?

One of those conundrums which autobiographical writers know only too well.

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