Posted on June 11, 2008 - by MG
Author Tour Report 1: Obviously, I’m a philistine…Originally uploaded by mgharris
…because today was my first time at the British Museum.
My lovely publishers always out me up at a boutique hotel in Bloomsbury when I’m doing author stuff in London. It’s right next to the British Museum but until today I’d not taken the time to visit.
Quite awe-inspiring stuff actually. Mind you, all the big London museums are.
The striking thing is that unlike the huge museums of Mexico City (and I believe, Cairo), they aren’t dedicated to indigenous culture. London’s museums reflect a fascination with every other part of the world.
Is it hubris on the part of Mexico and Egypt, compared with generous interest on the part of the Brits?
Or does it simply reflect the success of Britain’s plunder and conquest of ancient treasues? And modern Mexico and Egypt’s lack of conquest over anything except a dead indigenous civilisation?
The people who think the Elgin marbles should be returned to the Greeks might argue it’s the latter.
While I was writing this blog post, two American tourists from Minnesota -father Lars and 12-year old Leif – sat down near me to enjoy some yummy-looking chocolate cake and Coke. We started chatting about this and that and the Maya.
The museum is light on Mexican exhibits, but the little they have is nicely displayed. An excellent lintel from Yaxchilan shows a Mayan queen performing the blood-letting ceremony.
Anyway. An amazing day followed…brilliant visit to the quite fab Eltham Centre library to meet a class of year 6s from a local primary school. Then a sumptuous afternoon tea with my publishers. Then champagne cocktails and canapes at Waterstones Piccadilly as we watched a Sotheby’s auctioneer sell off handwritten short stories by famous authors (read the BBC news report here…)
Luckily for me they hadn’t asked Murakami or Vargas Llosa so I wasn’t in danger of losing my head and getting into a bidding war. One of my publishers was a bit miffed at being beaten to the Doris Lessing. And we all felt that the 800 word Harry Potter went cheaply at around £25,000. But the auctioneer was taking absentee bids. The whole room could sense that Mystery Bidder was prepared to go to daft numbers. So everyone chickened out. Afterwards we all felt daft. Because you could probably have doubled your money at least even on eBay. Later I asked one of the Bloomsbury team why they hadn’t bid to push up the price. She pointed out that even JKR’s agent hadn’t bid. And from what I heard about who was there…he was probably the richest person in the room.
It would have been public-spirited to have kept Mystery Bidder going to what would probably have been silly money. But it seems no-one wanted to risk that tricky conversation at home. ‘Honey, I seem to have spent fifty grand on a bit of a story…’
Then Scholastic kindly took Axel Scheffler and I to dinner at the Criterion. His lovely Gruffalo story was the fourth most expensive at the auction.
Ee. See what a fabulously glamorous author life I’m having just now? Today doing a bunch of bookshop signings and then playing the biggest room I’ve done as an author – 180 years 5 and 6 in Dulwich.
Better get up then…
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