The launch

We have take-off! Actually, that should read we had take-off, because this post is about the launch party for Central Reservation on 1 November, at the Union Club in Soho. It contains pictures (well, all right, a link to pictures) and very remarkably, pictures that move and talk. On which front, here are some straight away. This is the brilliant John Were, CEO of Xelsion Publishing, talking about books, reading and new opportunities for everyone who loves both of these things in his very kind speech that kick-started proceedings:

Mostly this post is a chance to say thank you. First and foremost to John, without whom Central Reservation would not currently be nestled neatly on the bookshelves of shops and sparkling temptingly on the pages of Amazon. I have met many people with big ideas, but no-one else apart from John with the courage to give them a try, and the brilliance and enthusiasm to make them into real things that actually happen. I’m thrilled that he believed so strongly in Central Reservation, and has done so much to make it into the lovely book it is today.

Thanks too to Fiona Traill and everyone else at Xelsion, and to everyone who came and made the evening such a wonderful experience. And to… actually, hang on. Moving pictures. I can show you… um… wait a minute. How’s this:

(I should reassure you this is not a long long list of thanks. It is mostly me talking about the origins of the book, and doing a reading. This may not be a great deal of reassurance, but, you know. It isn’t all teary tribute. (Though if I was ever really to acknowledge the debts I owe to lots and lots of people, it certainly would be.))

And while we are in the technical picture business, here are the photos of the event, too.

So: mostly, thank you, to everyone, one more time, is what I wanted to say.

And finally: I was asked, a few times that night, how it felt as a debut author to be sitting behind a pile of books that had my name on, writing said name on the front page of the book (between the title and, um, my name).

Mostly I tried to say that it was bewildering and lovely, and passed by in the sort of daze of the overwhelming present moment that characterises a lot of occasions in life, like weddings and parties and all sorts of celebrations.

But looking back it occurs to me there is something else about that overwhelming present moment. When you are in the middle of any experience on which you have focused and about which you’ve dreamt; when something is happening that you know you will always want to remember; it seems to me that like a prism scattering light, the conscious experience itself is prised apart and fragmented.

Part of you is in the room, seeing lots of lovely people, feeling, thinking, talking. Part of you is busy trying to lay down the memory of what is happening even as it happens, like the Wallace and Gromit film in which Gromit is lying on a toy train, furiously laying track in front of it so that he can continue to chase the sinister chicken-penguin that has tried to frame him (I am getting a faint feeling that this analogy may not illuminate for those who have not seen the film, but it gave me the chance to write sinister chicken-penguin, so there is no chance that I’m rethinking it).

And finally another part of you is doubtful that it is happening at all. This part is like visiting New York. You emerge from the subway, see the yellow cabs, tilt your head up at the Empire State, and in an instant reality dissolves and it is impossible to say if you are in a film of New York, remembering a film of New York, or actually in New York. Same that night: was I sitting behind a pile of books, imagining it, watching someone else doing it? It was at points very hard to tell.

Now writing is all about turning experiences into narratives. And I’m not at all sure that isn’t what memory, personality and the experience of life are about too. We are always doubling: converting the mass of momentary experiences into an analogue of them that fits inside our heads, can be stored, reviewed, repeated; can add to the totality of our existence.

Experiences which shatter this mechanism are very interesting. Even at the time they can frustrate: there’s that sensation of being at a wedding, or in a beautiful place, and trying to encompass it – trying to own the experience – trembling on the very edge of what feels like total immersion into it, but never being able quite to cross the threshold.

And afterwards, I’m not sure these experiences can be recalled. We summon them to mind, but what we tend to see are photographs of the past moment, seeing ourselves from the outside.

So where does this leave writing? Well here, I think, is the magic of a great book. No other medium, for me, can quite encapsulate that sense of the inexpressible; can trigger the threshold state. But a book, because the words on the page distract our eyes, and stillness and calmness of holding it distract our bodies, leaving only a voice weaving images inside our heads; somehow this process for me manages more closely than anything else to recreate the elusive fragments of the passing moment.

And it only gets stronger. I feel I have come closer to the inexpressible sensation when remembering a book I loved and read years before, than when remembering reality; even perhaps than when experiencing reality, at the times in which it stars and shatters.

So here, in short, is to the book: all books, and all those who read in them. And, one last time, here’s to all the kind people who helped me to add the tiniest sliver to that great bookly monument. You are stars, and I am very, very grateful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Will le Fleming is a novelist. His debut, Central Reservation, is published by Xelsion and available now. Read more...

On a grey Thursday morning Holly lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, and wished her sister would die. Five hours later her wish came true. Read more...

About this blog
The first post explains all - find it here.