Friday, April 10, 2009

John Siddique and Mark Illis at Central Library

Had a very nice evening yesterday: I went to the Manchester launch of John Siddique's poetry collection, Recital: An Almanac, and Mark Illis's story collection, Tender, both of them new books from Salt. Central Library committee room was packed out for two riveting readings. The two authors had provided bubbly wine, so groan, but also yum, I succumbed (I've been staying off alcohol lately.) I had been to John's London launch last week, but it's even better the second time you hear poems, I think. John's book is unified by the theme of the lunar year, and Mark's by the fact that the stories trace the history of a family over a number of years, taking different viewpoints along the way. The one he read out, from the teenage daughter's point of view, was very moving, and his prose style is light but incisive. A member of the audience asked him what was the difference between a collection like this and a novel, and Mark (who is also a novelist) said that he didn't feel there was a lot difference: on the whole he'd say it's a kind of transition/hybrid form, though he plumped to have this book published as stories as that was how he'd approached it in the writing: piecemeal and out of sequence. I had met Mark previously when he was a Centre Director for Arvon at Lumb Bank and invited me to tutor there, and it was great to meet him again. He's also an Emmerdale writer, and two other Emmerdale writers had come to hear him read: Peter Kerry whom I know, and whose surreal short play about a call centre I had seen last weekend at an enterprising evening of short plays by television writers at the Joshua Brooks pub, and Stephen May, whose exciting-sounding novel Tag, about a gifted but troublesome teenage girl, is published by Cinnamon Press.

After the reading I was meeting my John, and when I rang him he turned out to be in Thom's Chophouse with a former work colleague and her two friends whom he'd met in Waterstone's, so there I repaired. They fell on Mark's book with interest (I didn't have John's with me as I'd bought it in London), especially when they saw that it had an endorsement from Anne Enright. And then we talked about The Gathering, which turned out to be one of Irish Theresa's favourite books as well as mine, and other books, and oh guess what, I thought, in for a penny, and I ordered more wine...

Here are some photos of the launch:

Mark reads:

John reads:

John signs books:

Mark signs my book:

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