We held our 8th Salon last night. 55 guests, 29 bottles of wine, 10 bottles of beer and 1.5 bottles of whisky drunk. 5.5kg of potato salad, 4kg of cheese, a few kilos of grapes, 10 baguettes, two and a half cakes consumed. 39 books sold. What’s more, at midnight was my birthday. 15 guests sang me a birthday song. One gave me a beautiful bunch of flowers, another Nemesis by Philip Roth. Even my 16-year-old daughter this morning confirmed that there had been a fantastic buzz around during the entire evening.
One explanation: The Salon has now acquired a substantial and sufficient amount of regular attendees, guests who know what to expect and feel at home and help to create a relaxed, inspiring atmosphere. Any newcomer breathes in that air when they step into the house.
Another explanation: The Peirene Salon received fantastic news last night: male angst and anxiety is on the out! No longer worth talking about! Hurray! An audible sigh of relief went through the crowd. Joy and happiness and good tidings were felt in every heart thereafter.
Who was the bringer of such good news? Matthias, David and Nicholas, the three stars of the evening. I had brought them together to talk about male woes and worries as depicted in their writings. They are sorry, they told me, that’s really not what their writing is about. The more they talked, however, the more they revealed. Matthias accepted that his entire novella was an heroic attempt to “exorcise a night-mare”. David talked movingly about the fact that his book was written with an emotional urgency after he knew he had seen his father for the last time. And Nick pointed out that his column in the New Statesman has autobiographical connotations. In short, many of us women perceived considerable quantities of interesting male angst on display. But we were far too polite to say so. And anyway, by the time we finished the 29th bottle of wine, these gender related differences in interpretation scarcely seemed to matter any longer.
The audience was thrilled and rushed to buy the books afterwards. The rest of the evening is history.