Friday, July 28, 2006


I had planned to post a report of Jeff's passing through Lisbon sooner, but had some business to take care of first, and couldn't find the time until now. It was an action-packed four days, with much fun to be had. Jeff and Ann are a wonderful, extremely friendly and funny couple, and it's hard for me to remember a time when Jeff wasn't cracking jokes or laughing at something silly we said.

I was unfortunately unable to join them on the day of their arrival, other than meet them at the airport, but I heard they had a blast with some representatives from the Portuguese Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. Details are scarce, but I do know Jeff fell in love with a bar called "The Chinese Pavillion", of which you can see pictures here. I have no photos of my own, but I'm sure Jeff will post his when he gets back.

I met up with Jeff and Ann for lunch the next day and then took them on a long walk around Belém (I do mean around, and I certainly do mean long). We ended up wandering around quite a bit, courtesy of my remarkably deficient sense of direction. The VanderMeers were thus able to feast their eyes on some of Lisbon's most luxurious parking lots (late 20th century, for the most part, in beautiful imported concrete), derelict houses, and not a few prized specimens of wild vegetation. Eventually they insisted we see some actual monuments, which we did. Concluding our tourist activities for the day, we gathered with another group of writers and editors for dinner as well as a big plate of Belém's traditional pastries (very much the only reason I took them there --- 15th century buildings are all well and good, but you can't really eat them, can you?) The long night ended at the Chinese Pavillion for a second time, over drinks and embarrassing stories involving graveyards, a tractor and --- you better believe it --- Chuck E. Cheese's balls.

The following day was almost entirely devoted to Sintra, a small town in the outskirts of Lisbon notable for having sheltered and inspired such distinguished literary figures as Lord Byron and William Beckford. David Soares, promising young writer and guide extraordinaire, gave us a fascinating, in-depth tour of the Regaleira Estate that was the highlight of the day. Lacking any useful talents and not knowing anything about the place, I resorted to doing my impression of Gollum in the pitch-dark passages beneath the garden. Also much walking up and down Serra de Sintra to see the Palace of Pena. And yes, I did manage to get us all temporarily lost in the park, having decided to follow a group of tourists because, honestly, who else to go to for advice on local geography? Certainly not me.

By dinnertime, both Jeff and Ann were on their knees, begging for mercy. Come to think of it, so was I. Don't get me wrong, it was all a metric tonne of fun, but also an intense couple of days. By Sunday night, we were all exhausted and wanting to slip into a deep, deep coma.

Jeff took some time Monday morning to chat with his editor Pedro Marques and be interviewed by José Mário Silva for Diário de Notícias. José Mário Silva asked many important and apt questions, and we may be lucky enough to have an extended English-language version of the interview for you soon. We also got to see and touch and smell the first physical copies of A transformação de Martin Lake & outras histórias, an absolutely gorgeous (limited) edition designed by Pedro Marques himself and containing Jeff's stories "The Transformation of Martin Lake", "Secret Life" and "Three Days in a Border Town".

The evening presentation was a smashing success as Jeff read excerpts from "Secret Life" and "The Transformation of Martin Lake" to a crowded house. Many, many thanks to all present for their interest and support. Jeff's editors at Livros de Areia have photos of the event at their blog, as does David Soares. (Warning: may contain images of Luís Rodrigues.)

Once again, thank you all for the wonderful time: David Soares and Gisela, Safaa Dib, Michel Jacinto, Pedro Marques, all the Luíses (Filipe Silva, Corte Real) and Joãos (Barreiros, Ventura, Seixas), Modesta and Maria João, everyone at Fnac Colombo and, of course, our excellent guests Jeff and Ann. We sincerely hope you return to our country soon, hopefully with more rest and not as much walking on the schedule. I promise I'll have a map and compass on me the next time.