Friday, August 20, 2010

The launch of ELLIOT ALLAGASH by Simon Rich

I had just five minutes. Enough to see rolling sand dunes, a low cliff, caves, a mention of Auriol Stein and then, imagined: the British man and an old Buddhist priest, the two of them smiling, nodding and retreating. Then a large wooden box and two men picking out a trail in the dark, and then, later, that box again, heavier now and then men moving faster, strapping it onto a camel and that camel rising with a protest.

Some would call it theft (and I think I would too) but others would think of it as some sort of rescue mission, and, anyway, there in the British Museum was the scroll. It was something I have wanted to see for some time.

It is the earliest known example of printing: black ink and white paper - the outlines still crisp and clear. Some scrolls are paper, some silk, and they were secreted from this oasis in the silk road and transported to the British Museum in the nineteenth century.

Five Minutes. Just enough time to imagine the grinding of the ink, the mixing with the gum, the black paste coating the meticulous carving of character and picture...

And the museum keeper calling time and I became part of the swarm to the outside, and eventually to Cecil Close, famous for its bookshops

and in particular 'To Hell With Books" at number 23 and the launch of ELLIOT ALLAGASH by Simon Rich (at 26).

The invitation had said: "Misfits, outcasts, losers: you are invited to celebrate the publication of Saturday Night Live writer and all-round funny fellow, Simon ‘most definitely a nerd’ Rich’s debut novel ELLIOT ALLAGASH with goblets of Elliot's favourite drink and a reading from Mr Rich at To Hell With Books in London." which I found irresistible, and turned out to be worth going 400 miles to see... mainly because I got to meet a couple of interesting people: Mark Reynolds contributing director of the Drawbridge, ('The Drawbridge is an independent quarterly delivering thought, wit and reflection through words, photography and drawing'), Pete Ayrton, editor of Serpents Tail, and Daniel Crew - editor of Profile books whom I'd only ever encountered virtually before.


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