McEwan in Seattle

Ian McEwan in Seattle

By  Julia Clinch  


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    Just came home from the reading at Elliott Bay Bookstore in Seattle where Ian McEwan read and signed his books for a large audience tonight.  The rains POURED down hard and I live in Seattle's suburbs, but I knew I owed it to MAD to make it to the reading and report an Ian's appearance.

    I parked near Pioneer Square, and like a real neophyte walked through the area "where angels fear to tread" in my Donna Karen mini suit. One of the homeless asked me for "change," but I was too nervous to get into my purse so i apologized and quickly tapped-danced away on my power heels across the square's redbrick grounds. I report it as it happened.

    I entered the bookstore and went downstairs where the reading would take place in 20 minutes. The room was already filled with Seattlites, fans, literati, TV cameramen (from Vancouver B.C.) Bravo and CBC (Canada). While I questioned the house manager at the velvet-rope, suddenly, out of nowhere, Ian McEwan walked by. (i'm as stunned as you, but there he was, crossing the basement floor, literally within two feet in front of me).

    Straight away I opened the portfolio I had with me and showed him a photo-page from the British GQ of him and Martin Amis at some London nightclub. He looked at it, and asked me where it was taken. I said "Don't you remember?" He looked again and I ventured "it may have been at The Groucho Club in London." Then he eyed it more closely and replied, "Oh, it was at London's Polish Club where Martin had his opening party for Money." Not to be contrary, I nodded it was indeed there  (but between you and me, it was at the press party for London Fields). I asked him if Martin and Julian (Barnes) were speaking again, and he looked quite seriously at me, shaking his head back and forth, and replied a two-syllabled "No-o."

    I then asked if "he" was talking to Martin, and Ian immediately shot back, "Oh yes! he's my good friend." I told him I was flying to Oxford next week to see Martin, and he informed me--as he started up the stairs--that "Martin is coming here!" [America]. I quickly retorted, "I mean Oxford, Mississippi, where he's kicking off his American booktour." "Oh-h yes," he said, and continued up the stairs.

    Ian joined a camera crew where they shot some film on him. About 15 minutes later, he passed by me on his way to the reading area, and I interjected, "Do you ever read MAD? I mean, Martin Amis Discussion site? "

He looked at me non-plussed, so i added: "On the internet! it's a website where we talk about him and his books created by Professor James Diedrick who wrote Understanding Martin Amis. Ian replied: "Oh, i will have to tease him about it."

to be continued-- i'm very tired now and want to go to bed. Julie Clinch

McEwan in Seattle:
part two

   I found my way into the reading room, a large, open room filled with wooden chairs surrounding a slightly raised stage and podium, and sat diagonal to the stage, second row back.

    Mr. McEwan was introduced by the house MC and greeted by hearty applause by the [roughly] 200 attending audience. McEwan is a slightly built man, aristocratically slim, about 5'9; he looked middle-40's, wearing glasses & sporting an expensive haircut. Moi, je found him Anglo-Saxon- attractive.

    He then began reading from the first chapter of Amsterdam as we all sat transfixed & entertained by his Oxfordian, modulated voice. He read for an hour. Like almost all authors, Ian is no Robert DeNiro, but his punched "dramatic" reading added to his attempt to please his audience. We loved it. One memorable sentence, describing the newspaperman Vernon: "He'd "send the paper to the grave in perfect syntax." The room filed with laughter while I thought only of Professor D.'s utter frustration with my constant grammatical errors.

    When the evening opened up for questions & signings, the MC asked us to be brief since this was our author-guest's last stop before returning to London the next day, and as expected, he was fatigued from a long American book tour.

    Then, out of the audience behind me, a voice rang our sharply. "WHAT IS THE POINT?"

    Mr. Ian looked taken-back, as we all were, and replied, "My book? . . .to entertain, I guess." The cronish and clearly mentally-deranged, grayly disheveled woman blurted out again: "I mean, it certainly didn't deserve The Booker!"

    The room sat APPALLED at this rude and unexpected outburst. Mr McEwan was clearly shaken. (A woman in the signing line later commented to me she saw him blush.) The din of disapproval, shudders, and excited whispers crossed over the room. I heard myself say in a normal tone, "If you didn't like it,then why don't you go home?" heard only by those around me.

    It was quite an awful moment but Mr. McEwan quickly composed himself and asked for other queries and proceeded the evening Q& A's. The abject rudeness of this psychotic crone stayed in the air, and none of us, including Mr. McEwan, completely recovered.

    Ian explained the title of his novel Amsterdam to a questioner and I will report on that later in another post.

    Waiting for his signing, a CBC director interviewed me, along with others, on camera in the long line, and I was told the program will be seen on BRAVO in the next few months.

    At his signing desk, I felt impelled to remark, "Your audience viewed you with adulation tonight, Ian. I apologize for that horrible intrusion. I am sure you have your mentally-ill & crazies in England too."

    Ian replied," Oh yes, I wrote a whole book about them."

    I was driven to my car by the lady I met in line, and as we turned the corner, Mr. McEwan came out the corner bookstore building with two other gentlemen [flanking him] and crossed the street. Impulsively, I rolled down my car window, and yelled out, "Seattle loves you, Ian!"

    His refined, serious face broke into a huge smile as he waved his hand.



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