Hey, it's Michael Foreman!
I had an amazing time last night at Simpsons on the Strand, for the launch of a book by two British titans, Michael Morpurgo and Michael Foreman. I've always admired Foreman's work and I recently read my first Morpurgo when it was loaned to me by my ten-year-old friend, Chloe, who thought I would like it. (Chloe gave me a little packet full of drawings of all her favourite characters to give to Morpurgo when I met him.) Just as exciting, I met Judith Kerr, who wrote one of the earliest books I can remember reading and loving, Mog the Forgetful Cat. And I also got to talk with Jacqueline Wilson and couldn't help but thinking of a competition entered by thousands of girls just so they could spend a lunch in conversation with their hero. (I didn't have to do anything to talk with her, so I almost felt a little guilty!) She asked what I did and amazingly, perked up when I mentioned my comic strip Vern and Lettuce, which she knew and liked. Which was very exciting, as she is rather fabulous. She's been unwell for several months and was out having a glass of champagne against doctor's orders to support her friends, but I thought she looked more fit and lively than anyone else in the room. I also spoke with her friend Damian Kelleher, whom I first met at the DFC launch, and I look forward to reading his upcoming book, Life, Interrupted.
I read the review copy of the book, Kaspar, Prince of Cats before I came to the party and really liked the way Morpurgo had used a central London landmark as a springboard for his book. (Very cushy, the hotel gave him bed and breakfast for three months on condition he'd host one literary event a month.) Hotels are fascinating places, and despite the commercial aspect of The Savoy hosting him to write, it's an obvious place to start off a story. Dare I say it, I thought the language was slightly stilted in places for such a celebrated writer (and he likes the word 'just' a whole lot), but I enjoyed the story and its setting and the pictures made the book a keeper. I was a little miffed when the Michaels were signing my book. Foreman signed very elegantly at the top of the title page, and on the same page, Morpurgo made a messy graffiti tag right across Foreman's carefully painted picture, even though there was plenty of white space elsewhere. I wouldn't even have minded if he'd desecrated Foreman's pictures by giving it horns or something, it would have at least been intentional, but scribbling over his friend's illustration didn't seem like a very nice thing to do. I was very grateful to be included in the party, however, and very glad to meet both members of this remarkable creative duo. It made me wonder where, if I could apply for a residency, that I would want to stay for three months, with the cost of room and breakfast covered. Hmm, some nice daydreaming material.
Check back, I'll post the review soon! The two Michaels gave a fascinating talk and I'll go into some of the detail.
Woodrow Phoenix just sent me this fascinating New York Times link to an article about Maurice Sendak. He's one of my top illustrating heroes, and it makes me sad to know he's so grief-stricken in his old age. I like to think of him as happily enjoying his last few years, surrounded by people and animals he loves, but since much of his work has been fuelled by illness or unease or revulsion, I guess I wouldn't expect him to be living some soft-focus fantasy retirement. But if there was any chance I could send him a meaningful message of deep affection and good wishes, I would.