Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hello Dave

So my last post was about meeting William Shatner (albeit briefly), and this one is also about meeting someone well know. The concern here, obviously is that I might start sounding at best like I'm hob-nobbing with famous people all the time, or at worst like I'm turning into some sort of hanger-on or star-f**ker (not literally, mind). Neither of these two scenarios are true, which, for all involved, is probably for the best.

So who was I hob-nobbing/NOT star-f**king this week? Only Dave Eggers, one of my favourite authors!


Swiftly cobbled-together biography

Dave Eggers has written a number of books, both factual and fictional, but is perhaps best known for A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius which does actually live up to the promise of its title by being both heartbreaking and a work of genius. He also founded the independent publishers McSweeney's, as well as 826, a non-profit organisation that tutors and inspires kids aged 6-18 to write, and co-wrote the screenplays for Where The Wild Things Are and Away We Go, both of which I loved and suggest you watch at somepoint (preferably when you've finished reading this and left a witty or inappropriate comment, but I'll wait if you're that eager that you have to go watch them, like, now).


I'd heard that Dave (I'm going to say we're on first name terms because he seems like the sort of chilled-out chap who would be comfortable with me calling him Dave) was going to be doing a reading from his new book Zeitoun at Book Slam, a literary event that takes place once a month and is hosted by another author, Patrick Neate, who I'd seen give a reading from one of his books in Shepherds Bush a few years back (OK, this post really is beginning to make it sound like I hang out with famous people and attend posh events all the time).

I'd actually first heard about Book Slam a couple of years ago and had been meaning to go to one long before now; the fact that Dave was going to be there was the excuse I needed to actually follow through (not literally) on that and pop along. Anyway, long story short, I bought a couple of tickets and toddled off with Yazzle Dazzle on Wednesday evening. Book Slam is held in an *awesome* venue called the Tabernacle Notting Hill way; it's got a really rather nice looking bar/restaurant downstairs and what looks like a dance hall upstairs. Book Slam was held in the latter, with tables and chairs arranged around the dance floor, and people wandering around taking drinks orders. I genuinely felt like I should've been wearing a top hat, or at the very least a bow tie. Preferably one that span around at inopportune moments.

There was a very cool animated backdrop on the stage - kind of like some sort of literary Matrix-style thing. At one point three of the animated letters started to move towards each other and I thought they were actually going to spell 'BUM' in giant green letters. Sadly someone turned the projector off before they could properly arrange themselves. This was the sole disappointment of the entire evening.

The evening kicked off with a poet named Malika Booker. Now, I'm not usually one for poetry; it generally doesn't tickle my fancy, but there was something honest and lyrical about Malika's reading that won me over (see, I'm on first name terms with her as well now). Later on in the evening I walked past her and told her how much I'd enjoyed her stuff. I rarely do that sort of thing, which just goes to show that I really did like it.

Anyway, Dave came on after Malika and, as I said, read from his new book Zeitoun. Despite the fact that I've still got a stack of books so large the little LACK table beside my bed is bowing slightly, I bought a copy of Zeitoun because it was signed; I'm a sucker for signed things. The books were all pre-signed by Dave, which I was initially a bit disappointed by because while I like signed things, I like personalised signed things more (at some point I'd still like to go all rock star groupie on someone and ask them to sign my chest; it all depends on which celebrity is least likely to thump me or have a restraining order taken out, quite frankly). Fortunately, I didn't need to get my knickers in a knot, because after he came on stage the second time, Dave announced that he'd be chilling out at a table by the stage where he'd be personalising stuff.


Here's the man himself reading from Zeitoun. I did think about taking a video clip of him doing this, but I wasn't sure if this was the done thing at a literary event. I mean, it's a bit more dignified than the Foo Fighters at Hyde Park, isn't it? Look, that person in silhouette on the left is wearing hipster glasses.

Yazzle Dazzle and I got in the queue pretty damn quickly so we didn't have to wait too long to shove our books in front of Dave and give him a jaunty thumbs up. While we were waiting, though, I was thinking about what I'd say to him: I really wanted to ask how he went about setting up McSweeney's - how a small independent publisher can thrive in a market dominated by large corporate publishing empires? But I wasn't sure he'd be able to answer that in a couple of seconds, and I didn't want the hundred or so people behind me to start glaring at me with murderous looks in their eyes if I tried to hog his time. It would probably be a bit rude to ask Dave about small business advice at something like Book Slam anyway. So, I fell back on the tried and trusted statement we all utter to people whose work we like: "I love your stuff, man!"

Yes, I called Dave Eggers "man" like I'm some sort of time displaced 1960s hippy throw-back.

Actually, I did preface it with the fact that I am currently reading his adaptation of the Where the Wild Things Are movie, called simply The Wild Things. Amusingly, when I told him like a gushing literary fanboy that I'd read all his books he apologised as if I should find something better to do with my time; anyone who uses self-deprecating humour is OK in my book. That and fart gags - fart gags are always good.

All in all, then, the evening was a complete success - a poet whose stuff I liked, a reading by Dave Eggers, a personalised edition of his new book, and a bit of witty banter with the man himself.

On the downside it totally pissed it down on the walk back to my car and I got thoroughly drenched; can't have it all, though, eh?


CyberPete said...

All this fan boy stuff is awesome. I wish I'd met more famous people.

There is a remix of the (camptastic) Kylie track Wow called F*** me I'm famous. Love it!

The point? Not sure but I'd totally be all "hi Dave, I'm Pete and I love your work. Here's my number"

Tara said...

I love that he has such a large signature and that he wasn't shy about writing all over the title of his book! That is so exciting, I'm glad you were able to get a personalized autograph!

I like the personalized autographs too. An author of one of my favorite collection of ghost stories signed the book I bought from him and wrote, "To Tara - Hauntingly Yours, Michael Norman". Yup, I memorized it. How geeky is that? :D

Inexplicable DeVice said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with being on first name terms with the glitterati. I mean, only the other day, Dame Judy said to me while we were at Nigella's charity luncheon, that hob nobbing, or even digestiving - Ooh, she is a one, that Dame Judy. Nearly as bad as Sir Ian! - Anyway, she said to me, right in front of Dannii and Elton, that... Ummm... Well, I can't remember what she said exactly, but it was really very funny.

CyberPete said...

Oh yeah IDV! Dannii told me about that. Hilarious.

Tim said...

Cyberpete - I don't think giving random famous people your phone number would go down terribly well. That's probably right up there with "Oh, let me show you the tattoo of your face I had done on my back."

Tara - Not geeky at all - I've memorised what Dave wrote in my copy of Zeitoun!

Inexplicable Device - Was it at your expense?

Cyberpete - It was at his expense, wasn't it?

CyberPete said...

Well not random, only the cute ones.

Yes, it most definately was. I'm surprised he thought it was funny.