I attempted to attend the launch of a new publishing house, Malame7, today, but was driven out by poetry.
In a suicidal move I arrived fifteen minutes early, and during the over forty minutes I waited outside for the thing to begin, played with two kittens – which proved to be one of the evening’s two highlights.
The other was provided in the form of someone involved with the launch who, in case he Googles himself, shall remain anonymous. We shall call him Tom here, because both he and Mr Jones share a similar amount of chest foliage.
Tom is super, super fit – of the standard which would enable him to join a boy band provided he shaved off his Hamas-style beard. I cannot work out if this advanced-only-enter-if-wearing-a-hard-hat level fitness is due to excessive personal grooming and lycra-clad self improvement, or whether our Lord in his infinite wisdom made him like that in order to test women’s willpower. Today’s venue was very dark indeed, but I actually saw Tom yesterday in an extremely well-lit place during a noisy meeting of a new popular movement, ‘Egyptians Against Torture’ (the meeting was shambolic but let’s hope that these were teething problems. I shall convey news of their activities here once they – or even I God bless me, for I hath offered to translate for them - start doing stuff. ). During the course of proceedings he leant over the podium on several occasions in order to hand something to one of the speakers, making me feel quite faint as his taut muscles were etched out underneath the straining fabric of his shirt. The effect was similar to that produced by putting a piece of paper over a coin depicting the male form and running a pencil over it. When not doing this, he bestowed winning smiles on all and sundry - but reserved an extra-special razzle dazzle look for those of the female persuasion. At one point after the proceedings he was chatting with a woman who is a friend of mine while standing very close to her and at the same time absent-mindedly playing with the strap of her satchel, which she had about her person at the time. Everything suddenly went slow-motion as he ran his fingers up and down the supple leather, and a saxophone seemed to start somewhere in the distance.
Tom’s interlocutor remained entirely immune to, nay incognisant of, the testosterone fuelled-steam seeping out of his pores and the fingers fiddling right under her nose or to be accurate her naval, and I can only assume that this is because she is a self-declared homosexualian.
Tom’s allure is further added to by his involvement in political activism and worthy causes and this, combined with the fact that he wears his shirt almost open to the navel (but in a non-affected manner so that it appears he has been busy fighting the class war), lends him a certain Che Guevara type of appeal.
I am not particularly qualified to reflect on the launch itself given that I fled after one qasida too many (and one is one too many). I will say this though: it was chaotic, as has been every event I have attended in this particular venue, whose ethos seems to be that organisation is for the bourgeoisie. The place has a very communal grass-roots, comrades in arms feel about it, which is nice in some respects but unfortunately whenever I have been there this spirit has translated into bedlam, with excessively late starts and audience members flocking in and out and noisily stumbling around in the darkness and sound problems. The author who recited his poetry tonight kept pausing and closing his eyes in a teacher manner until the constant wall of noise abated and everyone shut up, before then repeating the line he had just said - which as you can imagine only doubled my pleasure. This went on for twenty minutes or so until he recited his last verse, a reflection on childhood: ‘I was never bored…Even in times of boredom…I was never bored,’ quothed he. By this point I had finished my pretzels, and this line was so far removed from my own reality that I foutred le camp.
Allow me to once again clarify that I am a philistine, an ignoramus, a dull-witted beige prosaic pedestrian of a plastic chair when it comes to poetry (and assorted other subjects), and my dismissal of this particular gentleman (or to be more accurate his dismissal of me) therefore reflects poorly on moi, rather than him. He read very nicely indeed (although why so serious, chaps!) and members of the audience who were actually listening seemed to enjoy it. In any case Malame7 is a worthy initiative, in the words of one speaker it seeks to ‘create a new culture in the Egyptian street.’ They’re putting new books on shelves, so high five to that, fellas.