I am a big fan of books live, by which I mean events where you get to hear, see and even meet the authors. Be they literary festivals, events at bookshops, literary salons, recording of radio shows or even a signing (though I find signings a bit impersonal, it’s can all be a bit ‘thanks, now jog on… next’) put me down for them if I can get to them as they always give an interesting (both positive and negative) insight into a writer and their work which I find endlessly fascinating.
So when I was asked if I would like to attend what could be the highest cultural and literary salon in Europe, maybe even the world, I jumped at the chance and two weeks ago headed to the Shangri- La Hotel in London on the 52nd Floor of The Shard, a building I have always wanted to go into since it was built…
The event was for author and poet, Tishani Doshi who was coming to talk about her work, her life and what makes her the artist and woman she is as well as the links and influences of both the British Isles and Asia have had on her work as a ‘citizen of the world’.
I have to admit that I had not read anything by Tishani before, though as you will see this didn’t matter as I didn’t leave empty handed. (I don’t mean I kidnapped her, I mean I bought a book.) However the things that I knew she would be talking about, because the first year of this series of salons is all about the links between Asia and the UK and the fact I had heard wonderful things about The Pleasure Seekers made me feel pretty certain I would enjoy it. Plus canapés and champagne on the top floor of the Shangri-La were a pretty big incentive too…
Anyway, from the moment Tishani started talking I was spellbound, quite literally – I know that sounds a cliché. She started by telling us a story, which was actually much more of a myth meeting a fairytale, about her life growing up both in Indian, before heading to Mold in Wales, then India again, then London, then America and back to India. She told us tales of her family which we had to guess if were true or not, she told us tales of The West vs. The East. She read from her poetry collections and from some of her fiction work. As soon as the opportunity came for us to be able to ask questions we all just wanted to hear more from her and her prose. She was incredible.
In fact Tishani and her event was everything that I love about ‘books live’. I was completely engaged, I got to learn more about her as a person and as an artist, more about what captures her imagination and how she writes what she writes and she made me think, leaving my mind buzzing with thoughts and things to go and find out more about. I also wanted to go and buy everything she had ever written. Unfortunately for me, but fortunate for my bank balance, they only took cash at the book stall so I only managed to leave with The Pleasure Seekers (which I had signed, that isn’t me in the picture above). I have a feeling I will love and want to then read everything else.
Oh the picture above? That is of my bathroom as I got a chance to stay in the Shangri-La afterwards which I will be telling you more about on Thursday, where you may also see a special guest. In the meantime though I would love to know of your thoughts on book events, which ones you have been to and loved, as well as some more unusual ones you have been to – especially if they are quite unusual like this one certainly was at 52 stories above the city. Speaking of which, if you would like to keep up to date with the future cultural events going on in the Shangri-La at The Shard then head here www.slculturalsalon.com I am hoping to go for an event in February that was secretly whispered in my ear, it is a corker though so sign up for updates or bookmark that sight if you happen to be in London, I highly recommend it! I would also love to hear from you if you have read any of Tishani’s works too!