With Dirty Bertie on its way to the shops, I'll be giving some talks – just in France for the moment.
First there's WH Smith Paris on Thursday May 22. Then I'll be sitting in the sun (I hope) on the English bookstand at the Montpellier book festival from lunchtime on Friday May 25 to about 5pm on the Sunday. I hope you'll come along and say hello to me – and Bertie, of course.
The problem is that tweeting is so quick and easy that I haven't been posting here recently. Well, I say recently... Some news, though, that I can't fit into 140 characters: I'm just starting the second draft of a new book, a history book that will be out in the spring. I can't reveal all quite yet, but let's say it will be about rich English people, and one in particular, who came to Paris in the 19th century for sex tourism. And Champagne tourism, too. If you want a hint, the central character was the very first guest to be invited to climb the Eiffel Tower. A huge honour, especially for a Brit. Watch this space for more. Or watch Twitter. I'm at @sclarkewriter.
A couple of readings next week, both in français:
Monday 18 March, at the Centre social l'Agitato in Mayenne, starting at 8:30pm.
Tuesday 19 March, at the librairie Thuard in Le Mans, starting at 6pm.
Sorry if I haven't been posting updates recently - I tend to tweet information rather than log into the website. You can follow me at @sclarkewriter.
Never let it be said that the French are predictable. Ever since the translation of 1000 Years of Annoying the French came out, I've been getting emails insulting the English in general and my female relatives in particular. Meanwhile the book has been getting great reviews from people who understand my humour in the French regional newspapers, but zilch in the national press. And now I find out I'm one of the 7 on the shortlist for a prestigious historical book prize, the Prix du Guesclin. Talk about a rollercoaster. Fingers crossed for Thurday 6 December when the winner will be announced...
This coming Sunday, October 21, I will be reading, talking and (I hope) signing at a charity tea party in Paris. It's organized by the Flying Frog, a charity in aid of blood cancer research, so book sales will be in a good cause. It's on from 3pm-6pm at the Highlander pub near Pont Neuf. For more exact details, click here.
A French reviewer with a sense of humour. Says he wants to re-start the 100 Years War and demand new topless of photos of Kate M, but ends up confessing that he actually quite enjoyed the book. It's a local newspaper from the NE of France, the area where they make Champagne (which was, of course, created in its modern bubbly form by a Brit) and where Joan of Arc was born (the saint who was as much a victim of French persecution as English). Not surprising he got a little annoyed. Read it here if you want to tackle some French.
The French will be able to see for themselves how and why we've been annoying them for so long when this comes out on October 4. I've had quite a few emails from people who have French spouses or friends and who were determined to inflict the book on them as soon as it came out in French. Well, voilà. The perfect present for that father-in-law who insists on explaining how De Gaulle won the war, and who says that stories of an English victory at Agincourt or Crécy are all fairy tales to take the credit away from Joan of Arc. Just click here and let the French postal system do the rest... If it all goes well, you'll be receiving a thank-you letter containing fifty shades of merde.
Yes, Paul West is in the pink. The FT review (attached here) says that the novel is "lighter than a good millefeuille, and just as moreish." Excellent news if you're on a diet. But I'll let you read the review for yourselves - it sums up the Merde series nicely.
The new novel has just come out, and instead of giving you a long blurb here, I'll just say why not go and read the opening pages on Amazon UK or my publisher's website. Enjoy ... (Actually I would have written a much longer blurb, but I'm just off to Poland for a short book tour, and haven't packed my bag yet. The question is, fluffy pyjamas or not?)
I have just noticed that Annoying the French Encore is not the correct title of the short book I've written that will be out on August 16. In fact it is Annoying the French Encore! (with an exclamation mark). I can't remember putting it there, and I am usually shy of such shows of public emotion, but pourquoi pas. It is a little book full of stories that have made the French say things with plenty of exclamation marks at the end, because we Anglos have been annoying them rather a lot over the past couple of years. So if you have read 1000 Years of Annoying the French and want a quick update on everything that's been happening since, I can only hope you'll have a look at Annoying the French Encore (sorry, Encore!). It is as yet only out in e-book form, at 99 pence or less.
As of August 16, I will be Annoying the French Encore. That's the title of a short book I've written, detailing all the France-themed mischief that's been going on since I published 1000 Years of Annoying the French in 2010. A nuclear submarine collision blamed on shrimps, a French politician implying that Brits shouldn't be invited to wife-swapping parties, the New York police who arrest people for sexual assault even though they're French. All this and more, in Annoying the French Encore, out in ebook only, downloadable from Amazon, iTunes and elsewhere from for 99 pence or less.
Here I am on the website of a French magazine, speaking, en français bien sûr, about the differences between us. And there are of course many. They say I have an "accent très British", but I can't hear it myself...
It originally came out in episodes but you can now buy God Save ze Président in a single ebook, at 9.99euros. It may be your last chance to save the old Président, or your first to save the new one (either way, given the state of the economy, they're going to need some saving). My book won't actually help them at all, but it might provide a little distraction from the crisis. Here's a link towards Amazon.fr. Don't worry, even if you click on "buy" it just sends you to the book's Amazon page.
Here I am at about seven in the morning, apparently trying to trick the world judo champion by using karate on her. It was the breakfast show on Canal Plus, and I was there to talk about the upcoming Olympics and – my main reason for getting up at 6am – get a mention for God Save ze Président, the French translation of Dial M for Merde. You can see the show, in French bien sûr, if you click here. I appear after about 15 mins and 10 seconds.
My novel Dial M for Merde is finally coming out in French, and in a fun way. It's been re-titled God Save ze Président to highlight the fact that hero Paul West's girlfriend is trying to assassinate France's head of state, and it's being released as six ebook episodes, the first time a novel has been published like this in France. More than this, the release is timed to cover the final sprint of the presidential election campaign. The first episode, priced at 99 euro-cents, will come out on Wednesday 11 April, and be followed by one episode a week, though the final episodes will all become available just before France actually chooses to save or sacrifice its current President. It will certainly take my mind off the endless round of political backstabbing going on at the moment. I even heard one party spokesperson complaining about their own candidate being mean because "he doesn't want me to get too much attention". It's egomania time, and I hope the novel will do a bit of pricking. Here's the French Amazon link.
On Wednesday evening, TGV permitting, I will be in Lyon to talk about 1000 Years of Annoying the French and Paris Revealed. It will be in English, I think, mainly because the books haven't yet been released in French. Come along to the Librairie Decitre, 6 place Bellecour, Lyon, from 5.30pm.
Great news for the environment - Paris Revealed, my exposé de la vie parisienne, is now out in paperback. Any visitor to Paris carrying this new edition in their bag is guaranteed to exhale 0.1% less CO2 than someone lugging a hardback around the city (according to a study I just did involving one person jogging around my kitchen counting the number of breaths I took while alternately holding the two editions of the book). Of course if you're carrying no books at all, there's even less gas involved, but in that case why not just stay in bed. Anyway, Paris Revealed, packed with fascinating Revelations about the past and present of my home city, and featuring an essential section on how not to annoy a Parisian, which is THE essential skill you have to learn if you're going to enjoy your time here. Get the book here (if I've got the link right).
Great but slightly confusing news – according to The Bookseller magazine, 1000 Years of Annoying the French by Stephen Clarke (moi) was apparently Britain's number-one bestselling non-fiction book of 2011, with 83,764 copies sold. Though when I saw the chart I was a bit confused. It was headed "Profitables", so I naturally thought, "où est l'argent?" Then I read the small print and saw that what they called a profitable book was one that hasn't been hawked on line or in supermarkets at a mega-discount. It's a bit like a music chart that excludes free downloads. So it's great news, but in a strange context – it seems that there are now books being sold at a discount that no ordinary bookseller could match without going bankrupt. Which makes me ask again, où est l'argent?
I've begun reading the French translation of the above-mentioned book, and I'm relieved to see that the humour has survived. In fact, France is a good language for deadpan. My only worry is how it will be received – some people are very attached to Joan of Arc, and might not like it when I cast her "miracles" into doubt. The same goes for Charles de Gaulle and Simone de Beauvoir, neither of whom was the saint they're often portrayed as. So I'll be interested to see what happens when the first copies hit the shelves (yes France still has lots of real bookshops with shelves). And I'll also be interested to see what the title is going to be - we haven't decided yet. If anyone has any ideas, feel free to pass them on. Remember, it has to be in French, and polite. Merci.
Happy new year, and here is my card, made using these fantastic things called "scissors" and "glue" that I found on eBay. Apparently they used to be all the rage before Photoshop and apps. And as a friend of mine pointed out, the funniest thing is that if you click on the card, nothing happens. Nothing - it's great fun. I hope that your 2012 is getting off to a great start, and will keep going in the same direction. I'm working on a new Paul West novel, halfway through the second draft, having a lot of fun with Paul's new series of merdesque misadventures. Anyway, click on the card and see what doesn't happen.
I'll be speaking at this year's France Show, and (I hope) sampling some French cheese, wine and patisseries, this weekend at Earl's Court, London. There's no decent fromagerie in my neighbourhood in Paris, so I do get a bit lacto-deprived and hope to be stocking up on some cheese-flavoured bacteria. I'll be talking about life in Paris, and probably a bit about Anglo-French history and its latest manifestation in the new euro-spat. I hope you'll come along and say bonjour. All details of times, dates, addresses and stuff here.
On Saturday 26 November I will be in Avon. Not the English county but the French town near Fontainebleau, south of Paris. There is a Salon Anglo-Saxon, which sounds like some kind of Viking bar but is in fact a festival of English-speaking culture. I will be there at 4pm on the Saturday, speaking in French (I think) about my books and signing a few early Christmas presents (I hope). And while I'm on the subject, what better Christmas present for a Francophile friend or relative than 1000 Years of Annoying the French, which is number one in Amazon's French history chart. That alone is a rather splendid early Christmas present for moi. Anyway, I shall no doubt be mentioning this on Saturday 26 November at the Maison dans la Vallée, 26 rue du vieux Rû, Fontainebleau-Avon.
Just got back from the Dinard film festival, where I was on the jury alongside some real heavyweights (not in the three Mars bars for breakfast sense of the word). Chairwomanperson was Nathalie Baye, French screen legend, and other jury members that Anglos might know included Jacqueline Bisset, co-star of Bullit (along with that roaring car), Jaime Winstone (who was in Made in Dagenham), Hayley Atwell (Cassandra's Dream), Harry Gregson-Williams, composer of film scores for dozens of films including four Shreks and one of my all-time favourites, Team America, the puppet movie that features the unforgettable song "America, F**k Yeah" (those asterisks represent a u and a c, by the way). And I was finally able to get something off my chest to Petula Clark, godmother of the festival – ever since I was a kid, people have occasionally called me Petula (because of my surname rather than my voice). She says it happens to her all the time, so I don't need to worry. A therapeutic moment. Anyway, the film we all voted for was Tyrannosaur, a tough council-estate, pitbull and baseball bat redemption movie starring two incredible actors whom I encourage you to check out here. And if you look very carefully indeed you might catch a glimpse of me in this video diary of the festival, hidden behind some more famous and photogenic people.
It's not yet out in the USA, but 1000 Years of Annoying you-know-whom has just been released by McArthur in Canada. Great news for me, because I keep getting emails from North America asking why it's not available on that side of the Atlantic. Well, now it is, the only problem being, I guess, that you might have to swim across one of the Great Lakes to buy it legally...
I shall be attending the above, giving talks in English and French, possibly at the same time. And I'll be signing books in the aptly named booksigning space. The talks are as follows:
Saturday 3 Sept, 2pm-3.30pm: English talk, Main deck of the Henry-Dunant, which is, I'm guessing, a boat on the lake, though it might also be a spaceship. What else has a deck? An English house after it's featured on a TV gardening programme, but I doubt if they have one of those in Lausanne.
Saturday 3 Sept (continued), from 4.30pm: I will be taking part in a round table with a French name, entitled Traduire sans trahir, or Translating without Betraying. Probably something to do with spying (unless I've translated badly, of course). No, in fact it's all about translating books, and I shall be giving a few examples of good and bad translations from my foreign editions. This is happening on the ground floor of the Chateau.
Sunday 4 Sept: French talk, probably based on the latest book of mine in French (Talk to the Snail aka Français Je Vous Haime). On the Lausanne (another boat, I think) in the Salon Haute-Savoie. 3.30-5pm.
More details on the festival's website: http://lelivresurlesquais.ch/
Though some of you might have seen this novel of mine in foreign airports, it's just come out officially in Britain. I haven't done any readings, mainly because as far as I can remember, the word "France" doesn't appear in it once, and as that's what I'm better known for, no one really expects much public interest. It's not at all like the Merde novels (it has a third-person narrator for a start), and the hero is slightly bulkier than Paul West, but it should appeal to anyone with a mischievous sense of fun. If you don't like to see the President of the USA getting a pretzel up his nose, on the other hand, it might offend. It's not all about pretzels, of course (though I don't see why it shouldn't be – Proust was obsessed by his madeleines, wasn't he, and Dickens spent a lot of time on his gruel). It's a present-day sci-fi comedy, a mix of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Monty Python and Carl Hiaasen, though set in Bournemouth rather than Hiaasen's Florida. In fact it's an updated version of Beam Me Up, one of the books I originally self-published with A Year in the Merde in 2004. I had a lot of fun re-reading it, and if you think you might agree, here's a link for you.
I have finally given in to the pressure and decided to tweet. I won't be filling your phone with comments about what I had for breakfast (unless it happens to be a sociologically, culturally, gastronomically or comedically (if that exists) interesting breakfast). But I will be posting regular comments via my address or account or whatever it is @SClarkeWriter .
I will of course continue to post things on the website, because you can't cram all thoughts or events into 140 characters yet. Well, most of my thoughts fit into well under that, but occasionally I try to string two or more ideas together, and a tweet just won't be big enough.
I'll be signing books in the centre of Montpellier, on the Le Bookshop stand from Friday 27 to Sunday 29 May. As its name (half) suggests, it's an English-language bookshop, so I presume I'll be signing copies of Paris Revealed, 1000 Years of Annoying the French, and any of the novels they have hanging around, not to mention Talk to the Snail, of course. I hope to get there from Paris about lunchtime on the Friday, so no need to get up early. See you there, I hope.
I'll be speaking (in English) at the Abbey Bookshop in the 5th arrondissement on Thursday May 5, as part of Paris's literary festival. The theme, so I've been told, is something to do with writers' angst about the state of the world, so if I'm looking at all anguished, please forgive me. I'll just be trying to join in with the atmosphere of Parisian intellectual gloom. I'll be talking about, and reading from, my new book Paris Revealed, starting at about 7.30pm. Abbey Bookshop, 29 rue de la Parcheminerie, 75005 Paris. Tel: 0961557910.
I spent Friday 29 April in London with the French radio news network France Info as part of the commentary team for their coverage of Ze Weddeeng. We all had a lot of fun, as you can hear on this short compilation of the highlights. It includes two or three of my comments, in French of course. On this link, click just above the photo, on the headline that begins "Mariage de Kate et William".
I’ll be talking about and reading from my novel, A Brief History of the Future,
which is so far only out in an export edition at WH Smith Paris on
Tuesday April 26. I originally wrote the novel in around 2002, before A Year in the Merde.
It was inspired by the popular science snippets I was writing at the
time for a magazine. I kept on seeing reports of scientists trying to
make Star Trek technology real, which amused me – all that
funding going on ideas from a TV show. The trekkie-techies were (and
are) especially keen on teleportation, and every experiment got a
write-up in the papers, even if it was just a case of someone causing a
proton to flutter for a microsecond. What, I wondered, if they actually
succeeded in making a teleportation machine - a very primitive one,
incapable of beaming animals, but able to transport crude objects like
crystals? And what if someone brought the machine back to a bunch of
imaginative criminals in Bournemouth, my home town? Drugs are crystals,
right? Just give us the GPS coordinates of your nostril and we're in
At the reading I’ll also be talking about Paris Revealed, and signing any of my books that people buy or bring along. So, WH Smith, rue de Rivoli, Tuesday April 26, at 7pm. Metro station: Concorde or Tuileries. Teleportation co-ordinates: 374.887/443.012.
My new book, Paris Revealed, is a very personal view of my home city. I wanted to see what really makes it tick (rather than what Parisians tell you makes it tick), and went off in search of its deepest secrets. For those who know my books, it's a sort of cross between Talk to the Snail and 1000 Years of Annoying the French, with lots of A Year in the Merde-type anecdotes (though true stories in this case). I have tried to work out why the city is so romantic and sexy (not always the same thing), why it's a fashion capital (all thanks to a Brit, actually – no, not John Galliano), the realities behind the city's snooty attitude to art, where Parisians get their hands-on obsession with food, how they make sure Paris gets on the cinema screens as often as possible, and why the men still feel the need to pee everywhere (strong historical reasons, as it turns out). There's also lots more about street signs, do's and don't's in the métro, my meeting with an ex-porn star who was born in Pigalle, the invitation to be a judge in the Paris Baguette competition (first prize, deliver bread to Sarko and Carla for a year), and why there's so much water gushing everywhere – in the gutters and from incredibly wasteful drinking fountains. It's Paris up close and personal, first thing in the morning without its makeup, but none the less loveable for all that. In fact, the city's even more fun than I thought.
My new book, Paris Revealed, is coming out soon (in the UK at least) and I'm starting to put some events into the diary. So far, I have these:
* A kind of preview at the Place in the Sun show at Earl's Court, London, on Sunday 13 March at noon. It's raining in Paris at the moment, so I'll have to pretend.
* A talk at the Oxford Literary Festival on April 2, at noon again, in my old college, Christ Church. You have to pay £10, apparently, though I don't know who's getting that because it's not me. Here's a link to the event. I've just had to email them asking them to correct the spelling mistake in my name – Oxford has obviously gone downhil since I was there (or perhaps because I was there). By the way the 1978 in the headline refers, I think, to the number of cheese sandwiches I was obliged to eat so that my student grant would go the distance.
* A talk and signing at Davids Bookshop in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, on Monday April 4 at 7.30pm. Click on this link for more details.
*And another nearby, the next day, on Tuesday April 5 at Rickmansworth Library. I was born in Herts, so it will be a bit of a homecoming (not that I can remember things that happened that long ago.)
Those amongst you speak German might be interested to know that a novel of mine has just come out in, well, German. It's called Eine Kurze Geschichte der Zukunft, and it's a translation of the novel I wrote just before A Year in the Merde. Back then, it was called Beam Me Up, though I have since changed the title to A Brief History of the Future, so that it doesn't sound so much like an episode of Star Trek. There is a teleportation machine in the novel, but it's a prototype as big as a microwave oven that can only send small, chemically simple objects like crystals – which is why, when someone tries to send a pig in a larger model, the result is pork scratchings. (Bananas and twiglets, though, come through intact.)
It's a comedy about the hero, Richie, and his no-good brother, Martin, and their quest for knowledge and world peace in Richie's case, and, in Martin's, sex, drugs and money. The story is mainly set in my home town of Bournemouth, though there are brief excursions to London, New York, Washington and Iowa. I don't think France gets a mention, which is strange because I wrote it while living in Paris. Homesick, perhaps. For Bournemouth, not Iowa.
Here's a link to the German edition. The English edition will be out in the spring.
Here is my custom-made greetings card, the result of several years' planning by my team of designers, and a grant of several million euros from the European Union's culture budget (I managed to convince them the card would make Belgians happier not to be living in France). Anyway, here's hoping the rest of December is none the worse for downloading my pdf by clicking on the little plus sign...
Two readings in December for anyone who will be in either Lyon or Paris on, respectively, December 1 and 10.
On Wednesday December 1 I'll be at the librairie Decitre, 6 place Bellecour, Lyon 2 from 4.30-7pm, speaking in English mostly.
On Friday December 10 it's the Abbey Bookshop's pre-Christmas mulled wine and books party, at which several authors including moi will be speaking and signing. It's in the rue de la Parcheminerie (the street is so short you don't need a number) in the 5th, from 7.30pm.
See you there?
I've just started a regular TV thing - the French call it "une chronique" which is a pretty good name, because the first attempt was a bit chronic. I was talking about the plans for Britain and the UK to share military facilities and ended up miming the Battle of Agincourt. Lucky I didn't have a bow and arrows or I might have taken the news presenter's eye out. Anyway, the idea is that every two weeks, I'll be talking for five or six minutes on a subject that has caught my eye in the French news. Next show: Friday 19 November, around 9:45am French time, that's 8:45am UK time on France 24. It's viewable on your TV or on the web.
I've given in to technology and decided to write a blog. Not every day, don't worry, and I haven't got to the stage where I want to tweet my every thought. It's just that I was invited to write a blog by the UK newspaper, the Telegraph, for their expat group, and it seemed like a fun idea. A lot happens in France, and not of all it is the right kind of stuff to hold back for a book, so a blog seems a good idea. Anyway, twice a week I will be posting something here (or hereabouts): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/8079703/Blogs-roundup-introducing-Stephen-Clarke-our-newest-expat-blogger.html
Here's a short interview I did via email. A fairly light-hearted piece, I thought, until I read the comments. My joke about getting 70% approval for 1000 Years of Annoying the French from two French history lecturers clearly didn't go down too well. I wouldn't expect French history lecturers to agree 100% with the book, especially as, while remaining factual, it deliberately stretches the bounds of interpretation just a leeeettle bit. I mean, I'm not sure how many diplomats of any allegiance would agree with my suggestion that the Entente Cordiale was engineered thanks to Edward VII's love of Parisiennes. Even though I honestly think it would be a very heart-warming thing if a little naughtiness could lighten up international relations now and again. I'm sure the sight of Hugh Grant playing a dancing Prime Minister in Love Actually did wonders for Anglo-French relations, and in 2008 Carla Bruni seemed to thaw any tensions between Prince Philip and the French. Anyway, I digress - here's the interview:
The other day, BBC 1's the One Show came to Paris to film a piece about working with the French. Their visit was inspired by a recent news story suggesting that France and the UK might share warships. An insane idea, of course – what French sailor is going to serve on a nuclear submarine called HMS Trafalgar, the battle at which the French fleet was blasted to pieces in 1805? Similarly, can the British navy really help out on a helicopter carrier called the Jeanne d'Arc? Saint Joan, after all, spent most of her short life saying rather impolite things about les rosbifs. Anyway, the One Show decided to broaden the issue and talk about working together in general. I therefore went along to a café to meet a friendly bunch of BBC-ers, including veteran reporter and novice ballroom dancer John Sargeant, and sound off about the subject. I can't tell you how it turned out, because as you might be able to see from this picture, if you live in France you aren't allowed to watch BBC videos. I hope you can see it where you are. I should add that it's only a short segment in the programme, not the whole thing.
Here's a short TV interview about the French attitude to tourists. France is about to make it easier to take taxis, and is trying to be more polite to its tourists, but it's got a long way to go. Or so say the French – I think it's often the visitors' own fault ... And, no, in the photo, I'm not demonstrating the karate moves that Parisian waiters use on their customers.
Here's a two-minute piece I was asked to do for the BBC's Today programme. It's a comment on the fact that many British ex-pats are leaving France and going home, many of them forced out by the strength of the euro and their inability to adapt to the quirks of life here. You may be able to guage from the smug tone of my voice that I have every intention of staying on. You will also be able to tell from the sheer length of one or two of the sentences that this is the first time I've ever written anything that I had to read out on the radio. I hyperventilated just listening to it...
I was in Poland last week for a few days doing promotion for the launch of M Jak Merde, the translation of Dial M for Merde, and my highly enjoyable trip culminated in a live interview on Poland's top breakfast TV show. It was in English (fortunately for me, because the only words of Polish I know are the essential hello, thank you and beer, oh, and sklep because I've seen the Polish shops in London), and translated by an interpretor hidden off camera somewhere. And the problem was that I forgot about the poor bloke, and hardly made any concessions at all when I was speaking, and even cut across what the presenters were saying, which must be a translator's nightmare. Anyway, you can listen to the interview – the English is audible – and try to imagine the poor interpretor sweating in his little booth (or penthouse office, I don't know). The photo that introduces the interview is me realizing I'd been overdoing it and thinking, merde. I'm ashamed to say I couldn't even say it in Polish.
I'm just putting the final touches to a new book, a personal view of Paris, talking about the kind of things you don't get in the guide books. Of course, like practically everyone else on the planet, I'm writing it in Word, and going slightly insane because I want a spellchecker, but am writing a book with lots of French words in it. So every time I write "chambre" (bedroom – an essential bit of vocabulary when you're wiritng about Paris), the software decides I'm mis-spelling "chamber" and I have to go back and re-correct it manually. Infuriating. But it did once give me a laugh. I was writing the section about my favourite Paris-based films and wanted to discuss Godard's "Breathless", the original French title of which is "A Bout de Souffle". And Word corrected it, to create a great concept for a New Wave cookery film, "A Bout de Soufflé".
This morning I had the great honour of ringing the bell to open the European stock markets and send the continent's economy on its daily mystery tour. And I flunked it. For a variety of reasons, including a Metro signal failure, the refusal of Parisian taxi drivers to stop if they don't feel like it, and the decision of a van driver to get into an argument and totally block a street, I was late. By the time I got there, the markets were happily clicking away without me. The people at Euronext kindly let me relive the moment I'd missed by ringing the bell, and even then it went wrong – my phone started beeping during the countdown. They actually let me give my speech, but I spilt the beans by saying that that this was the talk I was planning to give if I hadn't been late. The moral of this story is clear – I am not to be trusted with Europe's stock markets. There is one piece of good news, however, which is that you can watch my cock-ups on line at this link: http://www.euronext.com/bellsceremonies/BellDetail-22517-EN.html?docid=866953&sa_campaign=sa_campaign=/internal_ads/homepage/03052009today-euro
On Friday 28 May, I will be reading from, talking about, taking questions on, and probably doing other activities associated with, my latest book 1000 Years of Annoying the French. The venue will be a mediaeval alleyway in the centre of Paris – the rue de la Parcheminerie. This is not just to give a historical flavour to the event, but because that is the location of the Abbey Bookshop, at whose invitation I will be doing the reading, the talking and the other stuff mentioned above. If past experience is anything to go by, there will also be some wine-drinking going on. All of this is due to start at 7.30pm, and if you feel you need even more information, the Abbey Bookshop's phone number is 01 46 33 16 24.
I'm going to be giving three readings from 1000 Years of Annoying the French down in the south of France. I'm writing this news item in an internet café and am totally paranoid in case someone is trying to upload my scans of Napoleon's love letters on to YouTube, so here goes quickly with the essential details – Aix en Provence, Monday 3 May, Book in Bar, 17h30. Manosque, 4 May, Poivre d'Ane, 17h30. Montpellier, 5 May, Le Bookshop, 17h30. See you there?
I'll be giving a talk, reading some excerpts and answering questions about my new book, 1000 Years of Annoying the French, at the American Library on Wednesday, April 7. It starts at 7:30pm and ends when we all get kicked out. The details: American Library, 10 rue de Général Camou, 75007 Paris. Tel: 01 53 59 12 60. In case you're in any doubt, it's a library but books will be on sale, and I will be more than happy to sign them. Overjoyed, in fact, ecstatic, and many other similar words.
Two readings in the UK – first, at 1pm on 31 March at Bishop's Stortford Public Library in Herts. Bishop's Stortford, for those who don't already know, gets its name from the fact that it was sold off in 1060 to the Bishop of London for eight pounds. Six years later the Normans came and built a castle there, and presumably decided that, like everything else in the country, it belonged to them. I will ask the locals whether they preferred to belong to an Anglo-Saxon or a Norman when I give my talk on Wednesday at 1pm in the Public Library.
The next day, April 1, which is actually Merde Day (the sixth anniversary of the publication of A Year in the Merde – it was originally my own joke against myself), I'll be giving a reading just down the road in another historical town, London. This reading is in Northcote Public Library, which apparently got its name because it is a public library in Northcote. More than that I do not know. Except that it's at 155E, Northcote Road in SW11. And that the reading is at 6.30pm.
I will be talking about my new book and reading some excerpts this Thursday, March 25 at WH Smith in Paris, the English-language bookshop near Concorde. It starts at 7pm and you can reserve a place (I think they want to know how many chairs to set out, or maybe not to bother) by emailing to email@example.com
The shop is at 248 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris. Tel : 01 44 77 88 99. À jeudi, j'espère.
I was a guest on Radio 4's Loose Ends yesterday, arguing with Clive Anderson about my new book. Well, Clive is much too friendly to get into a row, but he was trying to insist that the Normans were French whereas in 1000 Years of Annoying the French I propose (pretty convincingly, I thought) that they weren't at all – William's family had spent generations attacking the Paris-based French king, and William himself actually died while attacking the suburbs of Paris. Anyway, you can hear us agree to disagree, and discuss Napoleon, Charles de Gaulle and other French icons on the BBC website (link below). Also on the programme was the legendary Mike Batt of Wombles fame, and some cool music. I'm about 15 minutes into the programme, after a very listenable song.
My new book, 1000 Years of Annoying the French, is coming soon, and soon I'll be posting a big self-publicizing news item about it (including some reading dates), but meanwhile there's a review in the new English-language newspaper, The French Paper. Here's their website if you want more info: http://thefrenchpaper.com
On Wednesday 17 February I'll be giving a talk and a reading, in French, at the Parvis 3 cultural centre in Pau. It starts at 6pm local time. For more info, call 05 59 80 80 89.
Here is another half hour of chat from the shows I recorded with Katia and Kylie a few days ago. Here I talk about my upcoming readings, and reveal even more about the new book – for example, the French snobbery that caused them to lose the Battle of Agincourt, how the Brits lost Calais because of an addiction to beer, the real reason why Joan of Arc was burnt, and some more recent clashes, right up to the gaffes committed during the Sarkozy-Bruni state visit to Windsor Castle ...
I just did a radio interview with a difference, for a programme called En Sol Majeur, which means "in G major" but is also a pun because "sol" can mean ground or land – in this case, the place the interviewee comes from. The station is RFI, the French equivalent of the BBC's World Service, and they're very interested in roots and different cultures. For any Brits out there, the programme is the equivalent of Desert Island Discs, and I was invited to choose six records. I must warn anyone who's thinking of listening in that one of them is a French comedy song about a man who tries to take a correspondence course in tennis, and another is a song I wrote and played myself. You have been warned. You can hear the repeat of the two-part programme by going to the links below and clicking on the little headphones icon just above my photo on each page:
My new book, 1000 Years of Annoying the French, is coming out on March 18. For anyone who is interested to know what REALLY happened to Joan of Arc, why America would be l'Amérique if the French hadn't threatened a cow, and why we owe the signing of the Entente Cordiale to Parisian prostitutes. And the funniest thing is, it's all true.
My new book, 1000 Years of Annoying the French, is coming out on March 18. For anyone who is interested to know what REALLY happened to Joan of Arc, why America would be l'Amérique if the French hadn't threatened a cow, and why we owe the signing of the Entente Cordiale to Parisian prostitutes. And the funniest thing is, it's all true.
Here's the web radio interview I mentioned the other day. In half an hour of relaxed chat, we talk about French efficiency (yes, you did read that correctly), the secrets surrounding the first self-published edition of A Year in the Merde, and I give away a few things about my new book, 1000 Years of Annoying the French.
I have been invited to do a radio show that is filmed while it's being recorded (I don't know much about technology but I thought that was called a "TV show" ?). Anyway, it's about expat life in France and is called the Katia and Kyliemac show, and to be honest I have absolutely no idea what to expect, except that they warned me to have an allergy shot before going because there's some kind of wild animal in the studio (the DJ perhaps?). If you want to watch me get mauled (or at least break out in allergy blisters) live on air, you can do so from around 3pm French time on Saturday 30 January at this link:
Here's my Happy 2010 card, an exclusive glimpse at a never-before-revealed panel of the Bayeux Tapestry, embroidered at the end of the 11th century, shortly after the Norman Conquest. If you have a close look, you'll see why the Normans have tried to suppress it for almost a millennium. Dan Brown should write a book about it (though I hope he won't release it the same week as one of mine).
Anyway, I wish all you people out there on our little planet an excellent last few days of 2009 and an excellent 2010, or whatever numbers are on your calendar, Stephen
I'll be doing a reading at the Abbey Bookshop on 11 December. Haven't decided what to read yet. Maybe something from the new book I've just finished, even though it won't be out until March. It's a history book and it's going to be called 1000 Years of Annoying the French, so you might be able to guess what it's about. Anyway, the Abbey is at 29 la rue de la Parcheminerie, 75005 Paris, tel: 01 46 33 16 24. Oh yes, the time – 8pm. There will apparently be mulled wine to keep everyone warm, that's if the pre-Christmas spirit isn't enough.
I'll be doing an interview in French on a London-based web radio station, Connexion.fm. I have no idea what it'll be about, so tune in and find out with me on Tuesday 1 December at 8.15pm UK time, 9.15pm French time (sorry, but other time zones will have to work it out for themselves). Here's the link : www.connexion.fm
Here I am on France 24, talking about the prices in French restaurants which were meant to come down after VAT was reduced, but have generally stayed the same. Who's got all the money? Well, the lovely French co-guest on this show tries to explain. He has a very strong accent that I occasionally had problems understanding (to help you, "law" becomes "lo"), but he makes a valiant effort to broadcast his message to the English-speaking world. He didn't convince me that we're not being ripped off, but he's definitely worth a listen. http://www.france24.com/en/20091125-vat-rates-senate
On October 20 I will be going to the British Embassy – not to ask for a visa for my North Korean personal chef, nor to ask if they can retouch my passport photo, but to take part in a fundraising evening. Yes, I'm doing charidee work now (and showing my age by using Harry Enfield references). Six authors, including my good friend Heather Stimmler-Hall, author of Naughty Paris, will be talking about their experiences of living in France, and hopefully raising some money for the SOS Help helpline, which provides support for ex-pats in distress. The evening will be hosted by the charming Lady Westmacott, the Ambassador's wife, whom I once met in a hotel in the Dordogne. It's not exactly what you think, but to get the full story you'll have to come along to the evening on October 20, at 6.30pm at the British Embassy Residence, 39 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris. Tickets are 45 euros, for a good cause.
See http://www.soshelpline.org/events.html for more details.
Here's a short interview shot while I was sitting outside a friendly English bookshop in Valbonne, near Antibes, signing books, drinking rosé and chatting to passers-by. A very pleasant way to spend a morning. For me, anyway. And in case anyone is worried about bad examples, I didn't start drinking the rosé till about 11.30am. Before that it was strictly coffee and water.
I'm going to be doing a short (too short) tour of the Côte d'Azur from 25-27 June, giving readings in some English-language bookshops. I'll be talking about my latest novel, Dial M for Merde, which is set down south, and probably answering one or two indiscreet questions. I also hope to sign a few books, and I expect the bookshop owners hope so, too, otherwise they'll have printed their posters for nothing, which wouldn't be very ecological. So in fact you owe it to the planet to come along.
The dates and venues: Thur 25 June, 2.30pm Heidi's Bookshop Antibes ; Friday 26 June 10am-1pm English Book Centre, Valbonne ; Saturday 27 June 5pm-6.30pm Cat's Whiskers, Nice.
On Sunday 21 June, I'll be speaking at this book festival just outside Nottingham. They're having a French day, which is very open-minded of them, and have invited me to try and explain why. I'll be in the Village Hall from 11.30-1pm, and the only bad news is that you have to pay £6 (which all goes to the festival, not moi, I should add). Anyway that's only about 5p a minute, so it's not much more expensive than an average parking metre, and I don't know many parking metres that will talk to you about living in France. Even Parisian parking metres aren't interested in any conversation beyond "pay now" and "you're out of time." Here's the festival link in case you're interested: http://www.lowdhambookfestival.co.uk/clarke.php
A short TV discussion programme (in English) about Johnny Hallyday and the sheer Frenchness of French culture. Here's the link :
The translation of Talk to the Snail is out, entitled Français Je Vous Haime. In case you don't know the French verb "haimer", don't worry, because it doesn't exist. It's a pun, combining "aimer" (which we all know) with "haine" or hatred. So it (quite cleverly, I think) means that I "love/hate" the French, although hate is going a bit far. But then, so is love for that matter. Anyway, I've adapted the text for France because some of it would have been too obvious to them, but the French translation is still a goodly-sized poison apple with the antidote in the core if that makes any sense. Lots of things teasing the French, but also plenty praising them, some of which the French don't actually agree with (for example, they hate the suggestion that a lack of manic food hygiene is good for the bowels). Anyway, if any of you have French friends or colleagues you'd like to tease a little, be my guest... You can get it at amazon.fr and fnac.com, for example.
I am the subject of a thesis, which is very flattering. Or rather my novel Merde Happens is. An Italian linguist called Ilaria Montagni has written a study on the difficulties of translating a comedy novel into Italian, and all the fun you can have doing it. Even if you don't speak Italian (which is my own case), it's fascinating. Largely because it's been translated into English so I can actually read it. It's followed by an interview I did with Ilaria, giving my own ideas (also in English, of course) on how to translate jokes. It's all here : http://www.immi.se/intercultural/
On 31 March I'll be in London to talk at the launch of a new book, City-Lit Paris for which I've written the introduction, a three-page piece about how everyday life in Paris never really changes. I'll be "in conversation", as they say, with the book's publisher, and talking about the city that has inspired such writers as Orwell, Proust, Julian Barnes, oh and myself. Here are the practical details - do come along to listen, get some books signed, and even receive a free glass of wine. I'm guessing French.
Daunt Books, 158 – 164 Fulham Road, London SW1O 9PR, tel 0207 373 4997, Tuesday 31 mars, 2009, 6.30 – 8.30pm.
For more details about the book, look here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Paris-City-Lit-Heather-Reyes/dp/0955970008/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1234288076&sr=8-1
Two upcoming readings:
April 30, 8pm at my old hangout the Abbey Bookshop, 29 rue de la Parcheminerie, 75005 Paris, tel 01 46 33 16 24 for details. Witn any luck it'll be warm enough to do the talk outside.
I'll be at the Comédie du Livre festival in Montpellier on 22-23 May. The theme of this year's festival is Spanish literature, so maybe I've been invited as an English lager lout. I'll have to get myself some sunburn and a Manchester United t-shirt. I'll be on the Book In Bar stand, and if I do a reading I guarantee it won't be in Spanish because I don't know any verbs. Like any good English tourist, my vocabulary is limited to cerveza and patatas fritas.
Hasta la vista.
In the April issue of France Mag you'll be able to find the first of my new columns with the somewhat ambitious title How to Be French. It won't be about how to become eligible for the French rugby team, it will give hints on how to adapt to life in France if you want to get on here, instead of waiting (in vain) for France to change. The first column is about a magic word that, even if you don't speak any other French at all, will work wonders.
For more details, see the magazine's website at www.francemag.com.
On Sunday 15 February I will be giving a talk in Paris, at one of Patricia Laplante-Collins's dinners, or rather salons, because apparently Patricia's is a place where people get together to chat, have a glass of wine and something to eat, and then listen to writers and musicians and suchlike do their thing. In case anyone wants to see me do my thing, they should come along at 6.30pm to 13 rue de Mulhouse, 75002 Paris. Patricia asks for a 20 euro participation to cover wine and dinner, and to reserve vie her website: www.parissoirees.com
Just got the Chinese edition of A Year in the Merde, and inserted inside it is a map of paris that seems to chart Paul's progress across the city from one dog turd to the next. Pop art? Poop art.
I'll be doing two pre-Christmas readings down in the south of France, at the Book In Bar shops. December 17 Aix, December 18 Montpellier. They start at 5.30pm. Here's the link for the addresses : http://www.bookinbar.com/Book%20In%20Bar%20Contact.htm
Just got a great pic from Russia - a scan of the nonfiction charts there. Talk to the Snail, written by a certain Ctepah Knapk, has just come out in Russian, and is at number eight. I didn't know snails could climb so fast.
PS Interesting to know that the Russian for "non-fiction" is "non-fiction".
Using all my limited skills with Imovie, I've improved the sound quality of the short film in which I am verbally harassed by a lady who looks like Carla Bruni, and I've posted the new version on YouTube. You should now be able to hear to the dialogue, even though it's not exactly deafening. Here's the link : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KOPB8745Dw
A friend (a real one, whom I see in the flesh, not a virtual entity that I prod or poke or whatever) tells me that I am on Facebook, that I have a page and regularly post messages, reply to messages on my wall and get poked or prodded or whatever. But I don't, unless I signed up in my sleep or something. It's not moi. I haven't looked, but apparently the person "representing" me in Facebookworld is very nice and says good things about the books, so I don't want to emit too much negativity, but please be aware that if you want to write to me or poke me or whatever, you need to do so via this website's address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'll be reading from my new novel, Dial M for Merde, at the Abbey Bookshop, rue de la Parcheminerie, 75005 Paris, at 8pm on Friday November 7. If it's not raining and there are no glaciers migrating down the street, the reading will be outside, otherwise it'll be indoors and there's so little space you might need to bring a trapeze so you can hang from the ceiling. I'll be signing books afterwards, or even before if you can't be bothered to hear me read what you're about to read for yourself.
I have been asked to make the following declaration. Please be sure to watch this 30-second film before reading, or even opening, my new novel Dial M for Merde.
I was in a Parisian park, getting ready to film my short message about Dial M for Merde, when an unknown woman came up and started bawling me out about the novel. Well, I say she was unknown, but I think she might have been very well known indeed ...
Have a look. We hadn't set up completely, so the sound on this clip isn't great. I'll try to improve it.
A few events have been scheduled for when I come over to the UK to plug Dial M for Merde:
Monday 8 Sept, noon, literary lunch at Calcot Manor in the Cotswolds. It's a spa so you can go and have a massage if I get too boring.
Tuesday 9 Sept, 6pm, Borders bookshop in York. Tickets are £2 but are redeemable if you buy a book. One of mine, that is. I hope.
Wednesday 10 Sept, 7pm, Beaconsfield Library. Support your local library. Or even your non-local one if you want to come along from elsewhere.
Thursday 11 Sept, 6.30pm, Waterstone's in Cambridge. This seems to be the only event that has a finishing time – 8pm – maybe to reassure literature dons that they'll be back at high table in time for dinner.
Friday 12 Sept, 8pm, Emirates Stadium, London, a full reading of the novel performed by Hugh Grant, with U2 and Coldplay as support acts.
Spot the fake event.
I haven't got my hands on the actual book yet, but I've seen the cover, which is fun (look out for the strategically placed snorkel), and I've just finished correcting the proofs – the last amendment being a legal disclaimer along the lines of "how dare anyone allege that this novel makes fun of the current French President". You can read all about it in the "Books" section of the website. Meanwhile, I'll be over in the UK to do some readings in the second week of September. The only firm date so far is the Witney Book Festival on the 6th. (Er, which, writing a week later, has just been called off. So that's not "firm" in the "firm" sense of the word "firm". Sad, I love book festivals.)
This seems to be my year of nominations – one of my travel articles about America has been nominated for a Visit USA Media Award. I'm not sure which one, but I suspect it's one of the road trips I did while researching Merde Happens, either the long drive along Carolina's aptly-named Outer Islands in search of fishermen who speak with Cornish accents, or the trek across Florida when I found a gun and had a car crash. Well, on second thoughts it's more likely to be the Carolina trip. Even though the car crash was fun, and everyone was much more laid-back and Floridian than they would have been in Paris. You can probably find both articles on the timesonline.co.uk website.
Merde Happens has been shortlisted for the Melissa Nathan Award. It's an excellent award, set up in honour of the writer of the same name who died of cancer in 2006. She conceived the criteria for the prize herself, and wanted to reward writers who "combine in a novel the magical, life-enhancing moments of humour and love". I'd never thought of Paul West's emotional stumblings like this, but I am hugely pleased to be nominated for a prize for being "life-enhancing" – you can't ask for more from a novel. The funny thing is that I'm the only male nominee, chosen moreover by an all-female jury. It's like being the only bloke invited to a hen party – a great honour, but a little scary. More seriously, reading Melissa's criteria for the award struck a real chord. On the website (see the link below), she is quoted as saying that: "Sharing a sense of humour with someone, laughing out loud at a joke in a book – these are moments of pure connection." It's the thing that people most often say to me in their e-mails – how good it felt to laugh out loud at a book. And the laughs are what I remember most from my favourite books, like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams RIP). The award ceremony is on June 18, hosted by stand-up Jo Brand, who is apparently quite nice to men these days. So fingers, toes, kidneys and various other bits crossed ...
Just in case anyone out there is interested, I've now finished the next novel, and it's being typeset. It's a spoof thriller set in the south of France, where I spent a large part of the autumn, and it's called Dial M for Merde. Here's a short excerpt:
Well I did say it was short. The rest will be out in September.
I've been invited to the Comédie du Livre book festival in Montpellier, and will be signing books (I hope) at the Book In Bar stand. With any luck, the emphasis will be on the "bar" and the rosé will be flowing, though I can't guarantee that, so it might be a case of bring a book and a bottle (chilled, please. The bottle, that is. The book should be room temperature). I have also been asked to take part in a "round table" on the theme "The French Experience" (followed by a very long French subtitle) on the Sunday at 4pm at the Salle Molière. I hope to find out where that is before 4pm on Sunday June 1. Meanwhile, click here to see the full title of the debate:
I'll be talking and signing books at this weekend festival of Anglo-Dordognesque co-operation in Périgueux on April 4 and 5. Here's a link that might explain what I'm talking about:
I'll be signing books (my own, I hope) at the Paris Book Fair, on the Robert Laffont stand - G56 - on Sunday 16 March at 2pm. You can bring your English books along, too, of course, or anything you want signed so you can sell it on eBay.
Anyone who can understand German, or my mangled brand of it, which sounds like an illiterate Frenchman trying to speak Bavarian, might like to come along to my event at the Leipzig Book Festival. It's happening at Lehmanns Buchhandlung, at 20:15 Uhr, on the 12th of Marz.
The festival's bookshop bills it like this: "der Bestsellerautor und Franzosenversteher erklärt in witzigen, informativen und ernsthaft brauchbaren Lektionen, wie man die Weihen der französischen Lebensart erlangt."
I couldn't have put it better myself.
You can see me freezing half to death on French TV during this hour-long interview, filmed just before Christmas, outdoors in a garden during an Arctic windstorm. (It's probably as a tribute to my survival skills that the website calls me "Docteur" in the attached photo.) I was wearing every piece of clothing I own, but the poor presenter was kitted out in a sexy tight leather jacket, suffering, as the French say, to be beautiful. It's an interview about the publication of God Save les Françaises, the translation of Merde Actually. You can see it here: http://limousin-poitou-charentes.france3.fr/emissions/30036019-fr.php
On Friday January 18, I'll be doing a reading in London at a French bookshop called Au Fil des Mots, at 19 Bute Street, South Kensington, in the French ghetto near the V&A. I'll be reading from God Save les Françaises, the newly released translation of Merde Actually, and signing whatever people ask me to sign. Within reason, of course.
I'll be talking about the pleasures of life amongst the French, and then signing books, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday 18-20 January at this year's France Show at Olympia, London. The talks will be from 11-11.30am, followed by signing from 12-2pm, on the Siblu stand, number B3. Here's how to get to the France Show: http://www.thefranceshow.com/find-us.aspx. Entrance to the event is £8.
This is moi in my role as a roving reporter for a new French TV programme called Johnny Saucisson. It'll be on Canal + from 24-28 December at 6.15pm French time. I'm one of five Anglo-Americans who were sent out with film crews to "discover" France. Amongst other things, I met the French MPs' pétanque club (and beat them at their own game), talked to a Parisian health inspector who explained why it is good to live with bacteria, and interviewed members of the Académie Française who are putting together the official dictionary of the French language, and who have only got as far as the letter P. So officially, no French words beyond that actually exist. Zut alors.