Among the many things I’m thankful to Maike Kollenrott for, one is the Moleskine. She was the one who got me my first somewhat overpriced but entirely gorgeous Moleskine notebook and I’ve been a Moleskine junkie ever since. When I got the first one, I thought the best thing about a Moleskine was feeling a kinship with Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway and Vincent Van Gogh (at this moment I’ve no hearing in one ear and am growing 300 sunflowers in my Molehill Empire garden so I’m currently feeling serious oneness with Van Gogh) but the real pleasure of a Moleskine lies in going through it when you’ve almost filled it up. Like with my current one which has about ten pages left and began, in October 2007, with me taking notes compulsively at the New Yorker Festival which was fantastic. A little more than a month before this year’s (which I will not be attending; please feel free to extend sympathies) is a good time to flip through the old notebook. The bits below are from a discussion on the theme of monsters between author Martin Amis and Ian Buruma, a New Yorker writer. Salman Rushdie and Orhan Pamuk were talking about homeland just before them but couldn’t get tickets for it (sniff).


Salman Rushdie is less than a foot away from me. I love New York.

Sitting on the table right next to a blonde woman wearing a New Yorker Festival participant badge. It says “Salman Rushdie”. It is not SR in drag; he is sitting opposite her, watching her eat steak. Not that this explains why she’s wearing his badge. SR has a Blackberry – feeling betrayed, somehow, by this corporate gadget on his person – and he’s following baseball on it. The Red Socks are losing. Yay?

Eavesdroppings: SR was hustled by a woman who has been shunted out from a number of publishing houses being too much of a hustler. SR: “I wanted someone like that.” He’s giving the blonde tips on how to be a tv journalist. “You need to come on and get exactly what you want to say out there, straight away, BAM!” He’s eating out of her plate.

The moderator is Bill Beauford, ex-fiction editor of the New Yorker. He’s introducing Amis and Buruma when his microphone dies. He pats his chest. Security comes charging at him and starts unbuttoning his shirt and lifting the back of his shirt. The foreplay restores the mic, somehow.

Martin Amis – leather jacket and boots. Ian Buruma – looks like a professor from a Satyajit Ray story.

Places Amis associates with monstrosity: Kuala Lumpur, Saudi Arabia, prisons of Cairo.

Amis: “Becoming a father led me to monsters. The continuity of the planet became important to me.”

Amis on traditional Islamic clothing as seen on terrorists: “Have we ever seen masculinity in such a ridiculous getup?”

Amis: “Terrorism is a kind of gamble on torture. Will it radicalise or deter?”

Amis: Osama’s upright index finger is “fiercely masturbatory”.

From a session between author Ian McEwan and David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker. All the quotes are McEwan’s.

“Waste three weeks writing your hommage to Philip Roth. Don’t waste five years on your novel.”

“Striding through the English countryside, my head full of Mescalin, thinking if there wasn’t a god, there jolly well ought to be.”

“My greatest high was seeing the 1973 American Review. On a pink background with white letters it said, ‘Susan Sontag, Philip Roth, Ian McEwan’.

“I must have been 17 or 18 when I had sex for the first time. I think.”

“Maybe it was a bit like farting in church.” [on his early writing]

“I actually began Atonement thinking I’d stumbled onto a science fiction story. It was by the end of what is now the second chapter that I realised no, it’s set in 1935.”

*People with phenylketoneuria, naturally.

3 thoughts on “Flashback

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