We Took The Book Quiz Together And…: I’m Catch-22. The partner’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. And people still need to ask why we refuse to merge the gene pool and have brats?

Mexico’s reading on the go.

Dr Seuss cooked Mother Goose’s goose for me when I first stumbled across that magnificent book, The Cat in the Hat. It’s his Seussentenial and you’d have to be a Grinch not to feel an inch of applause in your paws. Okay, enough bad verse already.

Passion seems to be on the verge of sparking off an Aramaic revival. Maybe we should get Gibson to do a dying-languages trilogy…

The Calcutta Telegraph has a report on the first round of the Commonwealth Writers Prize. I like the award. It ignores the fact that there is effectively no Commonwealth any more with such insouciance. It comes up with weird grab-bag lists of authors improbably lumped together simply because they come from, or write about, a particular region. It’s a bit like lace doilies: it has no relevance today, but it’s nice to know someone cares about it enough to cobble all those fussy bits together.

Standing Room Only: The Babu recently agreed to pitch in at a book reading on very short notice (this is easy if you ever need a guest reader: call the Babu up when he’s in the middle of a siesta and he’ll say yes to anything just to get you off the phone. That is incidentally why he once babysat a mongoose for a week, and why on another occasion, he ended up being engaged for three days to the wrong person. Babus were never MEANT to be called during their afternoon naps). The book’s editor was out of town; the book fair was on in Delhi; the PR people at the publishers all thought the other one was supposed to tell the world about the reading; and the Babu, being half-asleep when he said Yea, told none of his friends because he went back to sleep and forgot about it till three hours before the reading, which was too late to say Nay.

Well, we thought we had an audience when we walked in, because there were seven people in the conference room. It turned out they were there for the Indo-China Strategic Discussion Group, which offered samosas and biscuits as well as tea. (We were offering just tea. And coffee.) More people came in; they left; they came in; they looked alarmed; they left. Fifteen minutes after the reading was supposed to start, we had an audience of two.

Thing is, they were too polite to leave. And we were too polite to tell them they were wasting their time.

So we read, magnificently and eloquently, to the audience of one plus one.

The odd thing is, it was kind of fun. We made a lot of eye contact. The audience was very responsive. Everyone took a break for tea and biscuits (these, I suspect, sent down by a pitying Indo-China Group). The Babu tried out different Peter Sellers accents, which he couldn’t have done in front of an audience of hundreds. And no one worried about people in the back not being able to hear what was going on.

Next time around, I’m going to refuse to read unless there’s an audience of exactly one, not counting the man whose job is to turn up the mike so that it squeals every second sentence you read out. These overcrowded evenings aren’t my speed at all.

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