21 May 2005

Kingfisher Blue

With half an hour to kill in Oxford Street before taking the tube to Shepherd's Bush to see Lin Coghlan's play directed by pm, I ambled into the big new Waterstone's opposite John Lewis. There was a gang of blokes having their picture taken. Hang on, isn't that Roger McGough? I said to myself. And he looks awfully like that young turk novelist Hari Kunzru. And that fella's a dead ringer for David Lodge... Yes, it's the 70th birthday of Penguin Books and there was a wee launch going on for the anniversary editions they're putting out. Also recognisable were Anthony Beevor and the brilliant Jonathan Coe. (Coe once said his idea of perfect happiness was "sitting in an armchair listening to Debussy while my daughters serve me drinks" - what's not to like?)
I bought Hari Kunzru's stories, along with some by Truman Capote. HK was joking with the man ahead of me in the signing queue that he'd happily do any dead author's signature, but when I asked him to do Capote he demurred. Perhaps he thought, quite wrongly, I was casting aspersions on his virility. He was very nice though, and the stories I've read so far are great.

Kingfisher Blue is all those things pm said it might be, hoped it could be - poetic naturalism, with an emotional quality all of its own. LC writes the four male voices with a careful, plangent understatement, and the cumulative effect in that small black box is very powerful. Daft perhaps in fact not to see something of Peter Gill's influence in both writing and direction. PG's links with Paul are longstanding but I wonder if his influence on LC is simply osmotic or something more tangible. Whichever, there's the wry, elusive tone there, but also an enviable gift for story-crafting, as LC paints interconnecting panels to form a whole, which is I would suggest a study of the scarred heart of the post-industrial male, his shrinking horizons, the smallness of his ambitions, his emotional needs outstripping his capacity to blank them.

Bought pm that drink, and introduced him to Rachael. Was strange to be talking face to face!, and not through this font. He was looking and sounding just fine, glad to report. On good form. Managed to buttonhole Lin to say good work, but she was spun round by Doug, one of the (extremely good) actors, desperate for change, before I could say any more than that.

Henry 4.2 tonight. Or is it 2 Henry IV. Looking forward to it, whatever it's called.

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