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Nikesh Shukla at the Vanguard Readings

Great night yesterday at The Bear in Camberwell for Richard Skinner’s Vanguard Readings. It’s an excellent series, basically offering a showcase to writers at all stages of their writing journey. It means you get to hear both new and seasoned authors, and sometimes poets too.

The readings are free to attend and Richard runs a smooth show, making everyone welcome and introducing audience members to one another beforehand and during the break. It’s a real skill and the effect is that newcomers quickly feel welcome, you always meet interesting people and the event never feels cliquey. Last night, for example, it was a pleasure to meet Paul Golden, a writer of Asian historical fiction, who may soon also be a neighbour. Small world!

Nikesh ShuklaOf the readers, the headline act Nikesh Shukla stood out for many reasons – the big ol’ welcome as he boomed onto the stage, his reading and also his performance of the promotional rap he’d done for his latest book Meatspace, and the impassioned and original plea for us to buy his book. (I wish I had – but with not enough cash on me – no, really! – and with the five copies he brought being snapped up rather quickly, I missed out).

Meatspace by Nikesh Shukla

Meatspace appears to be a very funny tale of online shenanigans, identity theft, dysfunctional life in the internet age… The Guardian compares it to Douglas Coupland’s Generation X. It’s hard to believe Coupland’s classic was published in 1991, a full seven years before I made may own personal discovery of the internet and was living a highly dysfunctional life in Portland, Oregon, staying up all night to chat on ICQ and frequently falling asleep at the keyboard. (It was Coupland’s Microserfs that did it for me – or did for me, whichever way you look at it, heh.)

Anyhow, Meatspace sounds like a novel I’d definitely enjoy and if you get the chance to hear Nikesh read, please grab it, he’s great fun.

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Robin Houghton 2021