I don’t suppose you can generally call a writer a superstar, but the huge turn out at the Athenaeum Theatre last night for noted literary light David Mitchell, gave the impression that wordsmiths can warrant such status.
David Mitchell himself admitted that he envied musicians, who can obtain an instant response from their audience as to the acceptability of their musical offerings, being out there in the glare of the spotlight a lot of the time, whereas writers, having a solitary occupation, rarely receive such feedback . He did mention though that he enjoyed touring and meeting his readers face to face.
He came across as charming, funny and unaffected; he has an appealing and attractive personality that was friendly and cheerful to all those who queued for his signature.
As these sort of events go, not that I’ve been to many, it was interesting and engaging throughout. It started with David Mitchell reading from his latest novel The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, then Melbourne Writers Festival Program Manager, Jenny Niven posed several questions about his writing process. He spoke at length about his methods of research and the problems inherent in writing an historical novel. All very interesting and wittily expressed by the guest of honour.
After a few audience questions, it was a matter of getting in line for the signing. It was a long queue, but David Mitchell seemed indefatigable. I only took my copy of Thousand Autumns, and was pleased to have it signed, though others seemed to have brought along his entire opus.
David Mitchell has been widely praised for his writing, and I have no arguments with that, as I recall my delight when I first discovered his books when Cloud Atlas was published. I was entranced by the novel and awestruck by Mitchell’s clever sleight of hand prose. At my time of life it was thrilling to discover a writer of Mitchell’s calibre as such beguiling writers are all too infrequent.