Monday, January 15, 2007

Beautiful Lies Just A Klanger

Last week I came into work to find Italo, the Ecuadorean, returned from holidays, beckoning to me. What's you're last name? he wanted to know. I told him. He beamed. I have seen a review of your book! he said, In the Sunday paper. I will bring it. Next day, sure enough, when Italo finished his shift and I was waiting to start mine, he had with him the Spectrum for the 9-10 December last year. It was a hot day. I was standing under a tree opposite the base with my mate Garth, our boss Bob and Bob's wife Stella when Italo came over with the newspaper in his hand. Do you know who Stephen King is? he asked, showing us all a picture of the man when he was very young. Garth and I shrugged and looked at each other: Yes. But Bob and Stella evidently had never heard of him. Probably what Italo wanted to do was, having had us identify SK, turn triumphantly to the review of Luca to show what kind of company it / I keep. Didn't work, but he showed the review anyway. Stella took it off into a shady spot on a wall to read while the four of us chatted idly on. It was, of course, the mean-spirited Herald review which I had, until that moment, succeeded in avoiding seeing in the print version. The sub's heading was dreadful, the stuff of nightmares, but I felt strangely remote. Garth already knew that it was the review from hell, so he kept his mouth shut. Bob appeared to be struggling with the notion that one of his drivers was also an author. As for Italo ... such a sweet man, he was so proud, almost as if he had written it himself. The fact that it was a bad review meant nothing to him. Later he told me that his son has just given up his day job to devote all his time to his band, The Valentinos; at which point I was able to say that I knew of them, having heard them quite a bit on the radio, mostly in the days when I used to listen to FBI. It was hard for me to imagine Italo and his wife going to gigs at the Annandale Hotel, but that is what he told me they have done. His son is interested in Mariachi music, and, more generally, in introducing Latin beats into the psychedelic dance mania The Valentinos play. Later, just before I went out to drive, Stella handed the paper back to me, but I have no idea what she, a Chinese woman not long away from Shanghai with only average English, made of the review and did not really feel like asking her. As for me, I had to endure a miserable night (money-wise) in the cab with the baleful review at my elbow, like some almost laid ghost come back to haunt me again. The reviewer - may his bones be tossed by jackals in the Empty Quarter - lives in Dubai.