Tuesday, 26 June 2007

U.S. Tour

Back home again. The book-tour of America was an amazing experience – despite the lack of sleep. I’ve at last stopped falling into a doze while my family are still talking to me.

As I zoomed from city to city (just so you know, it was London to San Francisco to Seattle to Los Angeles to Washington to Boston) I met a great bunch of people, mainly booksellers, and their wonderful warmth and enthusiasm for The Russian Concubine was so exciting, I could have travelled round the States without the aeroplanes, I was flying so high.

Check out my website’s American Tour 2007 if you want the details, but here I want to share a few impressions that stuck in my mind.

1) Booksellers in Los Angeles have to shake the sand out of their books before handing them over to customers, if their stores are near the beach. Isn’t that a great image?

2) In Seattle, the Pike Place Market. A crazy warren of stalls that sells everything (I bought two cute Classic Car models for my husband - to soothe my guilt-pangs at abandoning him for a week back in England), And its piece de resistance – the ritual of throwing the salmon. Don’t ask! Suffice to say I saw a whole (dead) salmon flying through the air as if it had grown wings.

3) Nodding Donkeys. Between LA airport and the city itself the landscape is covered in hundreds of these small oil pumps (called ‘Nodding Donkeys’) that look like it’s been colonised by the wobbly-headed plastic dogs you see on the rear shelf of a car. That is so weird.

4) Cosmo cocktails in Washington. Wicked.

5) Alaska Airways. Who is that guy whose face beams out from each plane’s tail?

6) A conversation with one of the drivers of the whisper-quiet, black-glass Town Cars that chauffeured me so courteously around the cities. The driver fancied himself as a bit of a philosopher, full of bright sayings, and when he learned I was on a book-tour for my publisher, Penguin-Berkley, he cracked a grin at me in the rear-view mirror.
Driver: So you’re enjoying the trip because you’re on opium.
Me (stunned): Pardon? Did you say ‘on opium’?
Driver: I did.
Me: Uh? (Were my eyes rolling in their sockets?)
Driver: Got you thinking, haven’t I? That’s what authors are
meant to do, think.
Me (brain addled): I give up. Why am I on opium?
Driver: (speaking slowly, as to a particularly dumb child)
O..P..M. You’re enjoying the trip because you’re on
O..P..M. That’s - Other People’s Money.
We both roared with laughter. I loved him.

7) Another driver in another city played a CD of sorrowful Russian songs to me the whole time I was in the car, laboriously translating the lyrics of each one in a strong Armenian accent.

8) Washington. A beautiful city, bursting with energy. The frustration of being in a hotel in the gorgeous Georgetown area and not having even one minute to go out to explore it.

9) Washington. A night-time drive round the city. Unforgettable.

10) Clydesdale horses and a beautiful blond Penguin representative with a passion for breeding and riding them. Have you seen these animals? They’re huge. In a photograph she looked like a butterfly perched on its broad back.

11) Amy’s table decorations with framed pictures of my mother and grandmother in pride of place. They knocked me out.

12) Standing in front of Nighthawk at an exhibition of paintings by Edward Hopper in Boston – a 20th century icon that in one picture says more than most authors in a whole book.

13) Talking and talking about my book, The Russian Concubine, without stop for a week to groups of people who are into books in a big way. Bliss!

So now it’s back home and back to work. What do I miss most from my coast-to-coast tour of America? A maid to come in each day to clean the bathroom for me!

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