Monday, 1 December 2008

Meeting the real David

I had a lovely afternoon on Friday going to London to meet David Isaak. He was in the UK on business and was taking the opportunity to catch up with as many of the MNW crew as he could. There was a big get-together organised in the evening which I couldn’t make so David very kindly agreed to come and have tea with me after a lunchtime rendezvous.
[Ooops, that sounds like the beginning of an interview. I feel I should now go on to say ‘So, David, your book…’ If you’re interested in Shock and Awe, David’s thriller, you can always read my review…]

It’s a slightly strange experience meeting people whom you’ve only ever ‘spoken’ to in the public forum of their blog or yours (or, in the case of David and myself, on the blogs of other MNW writers) in the sense that you feel you know them quite well but have no idea what they’re ‘like’ in a personally present sense.

For me it raised interesting questions (which I pondered on a long and almost infinitely delayed train journey home) about what being acquainted with somebody actually means. David and I have participated in lots of online discussions about writing – I know quite a lot of what he’s prepared to reveal in public about his writing habits, I have got to know at least some of his taste in reading, films and music. So I wasn’t meeting a stranger by any means, but I didn’t feel I knew him as well as I would know somebody from whom I’d learned all that information in verbal conversation.

David and I tangentially discussed this, wondering why he had had to come to London for a business meeting when none of the participants are based there. Why wouldn’t a video conference have done the trick? We both agreed that, despite the assumptions of the 80s technology gurus when we were young, meetings where everybody is only virtually present haven’t really taken off as a way of doing business.

What is it? Do we need to see the whites of peple’s eyes before we know that what they’re saying is what they really mean? Do we need to see what people look like before we really feel we’ve got a handle on who they are?

It’s an interesting philosophical question. More and more, our society seems to be coming to the conclusion that ‘we’ reside in our brains which may or may not be coincidental with our minds. If that’s the case, why the concensus that we need to ‘press the flesh’ before a real meeting of minds has taken place? Sounds to me as if minds are a good deal more spread about our whole person than we like to (rationally) think.

But, all that philosophising aside, it was absolutely great to meet David who is the kind of person you could just chat to for hours and hours. Now, when I read his blog, I’ll mentally hear his softly-spoken voice speaking his words and I’ll be able to think ‘yes, that sounds like the lovely person I met’.


David Isaak said...

Thanks so much for coming into London to chat, Alis. (Especially through the disaster of Oxford Street on Friday afternoon in the rain and just on the way to Christmas. Yikes.)

Kurt Vonnegut claimed the reason people go to hear authors read is because they want to see if they can trust you (and that involves seeing your mannerisms).

On the other hand, Matt Curran and I have concluded that the reason business can't be conducted entirely by videoconferencing is that people can never be sure you have your trousers on.

Either way, it was great to finally meet you. Let us know if you ever come this way.

Tim Stretton said...

Alis, it was a real shame you couldn't be at the evening gig. But it was such a success that I'm sure there'll be others. A few of us will be at the lunch/Matt's launch on 16 January.

I'm always interested in the difference/similarity between writers' spoken and written voices. It was easy to link the David I met with the "voice of Tomorrowville"--soft spoken, as you say, but with a twinkle of humour always ready to burst out.

Alis, your blog always has the coolest verification words around: today's is "glang".

Alis said...

Hi David
Yes, Oxford Street was interesting, particularly the whole Christmas thing which I find more oppressively materialistic every year...especially as people ignore the Big Issue sellers and step over beggars to get into SElfridges...
On the no trousers thing there was a great advert here a while ago for one of the broadband ISPs which featured webcam communications. One 'chat' was between a student who'd cleared the bit of his sordid room his parents would see on the webcam and his mum and dad who were respectably dressed from the webcam-visible waist up and naked below! So yeah, we do need to see the trousers.

Alis said...

Hi Tim - Yes, I was sorry not to be able to make the do at Len's but I've got the lunch and launch in my diary for the 16th so, all being well, I'll get to meet up with you and others then.
These word verification thingies are fun, aren't they? This one is 'verbils'!

David Isaak said...

My favorite verification code so far is "jivest." Kind of a hep-cat Elizabethan thing: Who dost thou think thee jivest, varlet?