“All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies.” That’s the “basic goodwill contract made the moment we pick up a work of fiction” according to American writer of short stories, Steve Almond. If that’s the case, Chiswick is full of liars and their accomplices.
Whether it’s someone primarily known for doing something else, who has written a memoir or writes as one strand of a varied career, like Clare Balding, Al Murray or Sheila Hancock, or someone whose success comes purely from their talent as a writer, like Sadie Jones, Colette McBeth or Paula Hawkins, Chiswick has an abundance of writers.
This Wednesday (15 March from 7.00 pm) Anna Kerfalk, manager of Waterstones, is hosting a local authors evening to which everyone is invited, whether you write or just read. Among those talking about their work will be best-selling author Alice Peterson, whose latest book A Song for Tomorrow is based on the true story of singer and songwriter, Alice Martineau. Alice died in 2003 at the age of 30, shortly after the release of her album Daydreaming, recorded with Sony. When she was born her parents were told she wouldn’t live beyond the age of ten, as she had the genetic condition Cystic fibrosis. Over the period of her life medical knowledge improved. She overcame considerable health challenges to graduate from King’s College London with a first-class honours degree in English and as she entered her twenties she fell in love and embarked on a dual careers as a model and as a musician. Jo Whiley championed her music, playing it on Radio 1 and Robbie Williams described her as “an inspiration”. Alice told me she felt privileged to know her family and to be able to write her remarkable story.
Chiswick has other opportunities for those who like to read. Book clubs flourish. There’s one which meets at the Tabard pub once a month (tonight, Tuesday 14 March at 7.30 pm as it happens) which is reading its way through the Guardian’s 1,000 Best Books list and votes each month on which ones to read next. You can sign up here if you’re interested.
I’ve also just heard from Sarah Wah, who is setting up a business called Living Room Literature, which she describes as ‘literature classes for adults delivered in my own home’. Sarah is a qualified English teacher with years of experience working in universities and schools, currently teaching at St Paul’s Girls’ School where she is also deputy head of the English department. Her business idea was born when a parent said “I’d love you to teach me!” So she’s running a couple of courses from mid May on the Brontes. You can get in touch with Sarah by email: firstname.lastname@example.org and this is her website.
I imagine her living room is much like mine. A friend of my daughter’s, coming to our house for the first time and peering through the window from the street, clearly unused to seeing a whole wall of real books in anything but a bookshop, sent her a text asking ‘Is yours the house with the book wallpaper?’