look homeward, angel
Michael Frayn, acclaimed-and-so-on author of Noises Off and Copenhagen, among many others, was in town yesterday to promote his new novel Spies. He is in his late sixties and is an incredibly charming specimen of the British '40s-'50s generation. He uses words like "insouciantly" without warning. A fine crosshatching of wrinkles is etched into his forehead.
He has not been doing any reading on his book tour. "I can't stand the sound of authors reading," he explained, "and the author whose voice I detest the most is myself." Earlier in the day he had done a radio interview, and the interviewer had been forced to read an excerpt himself. "So I think I will forgo the reading tonight," he said, "and instead talk about the book for twenty minutes or so." Which he did, displaying copious wit and self-deprecation throughout the talk (which gave the appearance of being extemporaneous, though it was obviously rehearsed) and throughout the subsequent mostly-stupid audience questions. A typical bit of prime British humility, on his translations of Chekhov: "It seemed that I was the only working playwright in Britain with a reading knowledge of Russian. Obviously there are many better Russian scholars than me, and many better playwrights than me, but I was the only person where the two skills happened to intersect."
Reading A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters right now, because I wanted something light and fun. Ha ha. The Noah's ark (beetle POV) chapter was all well and good, but then there was the Palestinian terrorist chapter, and now there is the nuclear war chapter, and I'm only a third of the way through the damn book. I will retaliate by painting more.
The Times presents: At Home With Chris Offutt.
The furniture is used, exclusively. "Everything is secondhand beat up," Mr. Offutt said. "In my case, a little battered. I like having stuff that's used, because it's like me in a way. It's already been through something. It comes to me with its own history."
Indeed. He bought that television I was selling in October, whose history mostly consists of Kieslowski and The Simpsonsnot to mention the gay pirate penguin movie, which I think is playing tonight at that tiny film festival behind the sandwich shop in Tucson. Nik is in Amsterdam right now, so I don't know whether we'll hear anything about it.