Polly Trope, author of Cured Meat and English language indieberlin literary editor, takes this opportunity to as a few questions of Noel Maurice, author of The Berlin Diaries and co-founder of indieberlin, about books, life and what’s happening on Saturday.
Polly Trope: So, Noel… Nearly a year ago now, I came to be your support act for the book launch of The Berlin Diaries, your Tacheles memoir, hosted by John Robb. I read that book in two long sittings. You said at the time that it was volume one…
Noel Maurice: Two long sittings? Must have been a slow day. I so enjoyed the fact of having a book actually finished, and then the fact of there being a party to celebrate the fact, that I recklessly swore that I would have Volume Two out in a matter of months. Now, a year later, I’m a third of the way through the first draft….best laid plans etc.
But also I realised that I didn’t want to write the second book as just a continuation of the first, stylistically and in terms of perspective. So I’ve been trying to find a way to write it which feels right for me. I think I have now. I’m planning for a March 2016 release – since the book centres somewhat around the busking lifestyle, and in March it will be exactly (gasp) a quarter century that I’ve been busking in Berlin. So, selling point.
What a bout you? I can’t promise to have read your story in only two sittings, but devour it I did, and like many I think have been waiting and longing for the next Polly Trope book. Whats up with that?
Polly Trope: I’m writing a set of interconnected short stories about smoking, the human body, and money. They are erring on the side of surrealism. I’m contemplating releasing one of them for the christmas market next year. So quite a long run-up… And I do readings.
Noel Maurice:And actually aren’t you a piano player too? They’re allowed to drink heavily I think.
Polly Trope: Yeah, if they are called Tom Waits… Did you know that Tom Waits is actually sober in real life? But yes–my parents gave me the gift of classical piano training as a child. Nowadays I improvise a lot, and experiment with songwriting. I have wild dreams that some singer might one day sing the songs that I have written. In the meantime, I sing them myself…but being a singer-songwriter is a whole other craft. In fact–What’s it like being an author, especially as a recovering musician?
Noel Maurice: I look forward to one day being a recovering author, at which point I will probably return to being a musician and talk darkly at twelve step meetings about the low lows of sitting feverish with fingers poised over keypads, late at night, alone, not knowing how I got there…unless I take up skydiving. Then not.
Actually I think it’s better for me being an author than a musician, since I always had a natural body clock thing of waking up at like 6 or 7am, which just doesn’t work if you play concerts until 2 or 3am. Also I naturally have my creative time at around then as well, six or seven in the morning, and that works much better for an author than a musician. Try organising a jam session at 7am. It ain’t gonna work, let me tell you.
Also I’m looking forward to doing more readings. And reading to an audience is I think a lot easier than being a musician. What!? You just turn up with a book in your pocket? No guitars to carry, no masses of band equipment…and not to mention travelling with a band. And have you ever sat through a sound check with a drummer? Painful, seriously. Forty minutes of the sound engineer going, “Hit that snare drum some more for me.” Also I think you can get away with drinking more when you just have to read. I believe they also prop you up on stage if needs be. I think I have a bright future there.
What’s your whole take on doing readings?
Polly Trope: I like doing readings, especially for a smaller crowd. I’ve learned not to see readings as book sale occasions, though: seems like the wrong approach. The two experiences — going to a reading in a bar vs. Reading a book — are really distinct. I love creating a literary experience in live and analog. It’s rather far removed from the reading experience that writing a book gives to book-readers. The literary live show is… Something else. Case in point., the #literophone , or the intimate readings we are setting up in the back cubicle. That’s not a sales exercise. It’s just a literary experience for the sake of a literary experience.
Polly Trope: Incidentally, that book fair…
Noel Maurice: Ah yes. The First Ever Indieberlin Book Fair Thing. Coming up this weekend! Yikes! Of course we started it with grandiose visions and unrealisable plans (bouncy castle as entrance, etc), and we’ve streamlined it a bit, so that it fits into a good bar, which I think was a good move. I’m looking very much forward to listening to (and meeting) so many amazing writers – from Jonathan Lyon to Jane Flett to Ambika Thompson to….the list is long. And I’m also in love with the Literophone idea, where we can have writers from around the globe giving one-on-one readings to people at the fair. Also because they’ll be sitting in a fluffy booth at the time. Without the fluff in fact I think the whole concept, indeed the whole book fair, would be pointless. But give me a fluffy booth and I’m anybody’s.
What will be hearing from you on the night Polly?
Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a ‘recovering musician’, he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.