Even as you read this, I'm probably on a plane off for the long National Day weekend. I've packed all the stories I printed last Thursday in the office and put them in a blue Prada folder. I packed those in first with my pouch of sun care stuff (Clarins and Sisley), along with the two books I'm reading. Then I chucked in my Capri sandals and zebra print pony belt and a bottle of Coramandel and then I left, feeling heavy-hearted and slightly sad.I'm already in the middle of the the long-awaited (seven years, to be precise) Alan Hollinghurst novel, The Stranger's Child, which is exactly what I like (that means 'country house') - it's like Henry James, Jane Austen, Edith Wharton and - mostly - E M Forster modernised. It reminds me of Howard's End, and Maurice, with a pinch of Brideshead Revisited. It's glorious and I'm savouring it like a delicious, late meal. I read that it had come out in June in the announcements that it made this year's Booker Prize longlist. Critics and punters are speculating that it will win. This would be Hollinghurst's second Booker Prize, if so. His last book, The Line of Beauty won in 2004.
The call from Kinokuniya Liang Court came when I was in the cocoon of EN's beautiful car. In the rain, in the carpark behind Hilton. We were laughing at the pictures in my iPhone. I don't know much about cars but EN's car was palpably beautiful; it feels like you're inside a Kelly bag, with its tan leather interior and white top stitching. It's a deja vu moment. I've been in a car like this before, talking for hours, in just this carpark, in another rainstorm ages ago. So many things happened, in so many cars which circled, and stalled and went nowhere. The magical time in the car, with the radio on, and the aimless cozy chatter is like a bubble that couldn't stand the test of reality. You can't stay in the car forever, and so the bubble bursts, and you're there on the sidewalk with the rain in your face.Kinokuniya wanted to know if I still wanted their last copy of The Stranger's Child; I said I bought the book at Harris already. I hope a lovely young person buys that copy and becomes inspired like me.
It was raining sheets that morning; I had to pick my way out carefully in my sandals around the puddles from the cargo lift floor to the road so EN could pick me up for lunch. I saw the flash of EN's white smile when he saw me huddled under the Burberry umbrella as he zoomed past to the traffic light to make the U-turn for me and that lit me up, even though my toes were all wet by now and the new sandals ruined beyond repair. He didn't know I saw his smile.
What R said about me at the dinner at the Killiney Road S11 is true - I do love a challenge. The best way to make me do something is probably to say I can't, or won't. One of the things I printed out to read was Getting Bin Laden, by Nicholas Schmidle, about the ambush and killing of Bin Laden that night in Abbotabad. It's 17 pages long, and I find it fascinating. Did someone say I wouldn't like terrorist stories? The food, incidentally, was unexpectedly good; but it was damn hot. R and Mr B were both wearing skull pendants. R's was lime green plastic, and Mr B's was white gold with diamond eyes.
The other things I printed out: Alex Ross's essay Deceptive Picture on Oscar Wilde's writing of Dorian Gray, and Jackie O, Working Girl by Greg Lawrence, on the icon as an editor. Jackie O had a literary side, did you know? It wasn't always sunglasses and champagne.The other book I'm reading is The Classical World by Robin Lane Fox (I love Robin Lane Fox!). I'm at the chapter on Pericles - I told you, not everything's about sunglasses and champagne.