Friday, April 28, 2006

let's hear it for worcester

If it makes you uncomfortable to witness someone fawning over an idol (or maybe giant crush would be more accurate), you should probably look away now. I went to see David Mitchell read last night at Skylight Books after years of marveling at his work. I preferred Cloud Atlas to Ghostwritten, but I thought they were both fantastic and inspiring. (I'm going to have to break out the thesaurus for superlatives.) Mitchell's reading from Black Swan Green covered three scenes: one in which Jason Taylor, the book's narrator and semi-autobiographical stand-in, describes his speech impediment...

It must've been around then (maybe that same afternoon) that my stammer took on the appearance of a hangman. Pike lips, broken nose, rhino cheeks, red eyes 'cause he never sleeps. I imagine him in the baby room at Preston Hospital playing eeny, meeny, miney, mo. I imagine him tapping my koochy lips, murmuring down at me. Mine. But it's his hands, not his face, that I really feel him by. His snaky fingers that sink inside my tongue and squeeze my windpipe so nothing'll work.

...one in which Jason smokes for the first time...

The green or gray of Hugo's eyes depends on the weather. "This 'Not Today' attitude of yours is a cancer. Cancer of the character. It stunts your growth. Other kids sense your Not-Todayness, and despise you for it. 'Not Today' is why those plebs in the Black Swan make you nervous. 'Not Today' - I would bet - is at the root of that speech defect of yours." (A shame bomb blew my head off.) "'Not Today' condemns you to be the lapdog of authority, any bully, any shitehawk. They sense you won't stand up to them. Not today, not ever..."

...and one in which he witnesses two older kids fool around in a field...

Tom Yew got on her and sort of jiggled there and she gasped like a Chinese burn and wrapped her legs round him, froggily. Now he moved up and down, Man-from-Atlantisishly. His silver chain jiggled on his neck.
Now her grubby soles met like they were praying.
Now his skin was glazed in roast-pork sweat.
Now she made a noise like a tortured Moomintroll.

Mitchell worked the crowd like a pro, seeking our assistance in translating his British pop references and coming across as endearingly self-deprecating. Mitchell's reading was so charming and sweet that when I approached him to get my book signed, I felt like a teenage girl again, complete with blush and butterflies. This was not the first time Mitchell has transported me to my adolescence recently.

I'm only about a third of the way through Black Swan Green, but it has been something of a surreal experience. Like Jason Taylor and his creator, I also was 13 in 1982. (OK, I was 12, but I wasn't going to nit-pick when talking to Mitchell.) And while Jason was coming of age in Worcester, UK, I was growing up in Worcester, MA, both places that fit Jason's description of a town that may not be the asshole of the world, but certainly has a good view of it. While he signed my book, I told Mitchell about this serendipitous indication that we're meant to be together (maybe not framed in quite that way) and how my mother had been sure he'd at least pronounce Worcester correctly. (Like Worcestershire sauce, not War-chester.) When I indicated my approval of his pronunciation, he asked me if I'd like to hear him pronounce it again. (Dear reader, I do believe he flirted with me, or at least kindly indulged my Commonwealth accent fetish.) He then signed my copy of Black Swan Green: "To Chris, Let's hear it for Worcester - David Mitchell, L.A. 2006" with a drawing of a open-mouthed face obviously yelling in praise of Worcester. I can honestly say this is the first time in my life I have been happy to come from the city commonly referred to as Wormtown, whose local vocational college actually paid for a sign for its main building that reads "Worcester Voke."
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3 comments:

Dicker said...

OMG. That's so lame. I mean, if it was someone important like a cast member from Road Rules then I'd understand but a writer? He probably doesn't even make that much. Have I seen his movies?

Dr Ian Hocking said...

Great post, Escapegrace. I haven't seen David live, but I'm sure it would be great. Looking forward to the next novel...

Best
Ian

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am reading the book now, like it :), but I do not understand what koochy lips means? Could you expain?