Deep in our hearts, writers really want to be treated like rock stars

The park awash with readers calling for their favourite passage, mouthing along with you word for word

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Next to me a woman is weeping. Her companion rests his plastic beaker of Pimm's between his knees so he can comfort her. In front of me a man is eating a bacon baguette from which floats the sweet musky smell of the Sixties, though whether the weed has been baked into the baguette or sprinkled on to the bacon, I am not man enough to tell. Everyone is my age. Tens of thousands of us, sentimental, peaceable, literate, careful not to litter the park, all heartbrokenly familiar with the words - "Home, where my music's playing / Home, where my love lies waiting" - followed by the dying fall, on which we die as one - "Silently for me."

Next to me a woman is weeping. Her companion rests his plastic beaker of Pimm's between his knees so he can comfort her. In front of me a man is eating a bacon baguette from which floats the sweet musky smell of the Sixties, though whether the weed has been baked into the baguette or sprinkled on to the bacon, I am not man enough to tell. Everyone is my age. Tens of thousands of us, sentimental, peaceable, literate, careful not to litter the park, all heartbrokenly familiar with the words - "Home, where my music's playing / Home, where my love lies waiting" - followed by the dying fall, on which we die as one - "Silently for me."

My first ever Simon and Garfunkel concert. If I am to be truthful, my first ever rock concert of any kind, except that my friends assure me this is not a rock concert per se. I don't get the distinction. Centuries ago an aunty took me to see Johnnie Ray at the Ardwick Hippodrome in Manchester, and another time to see Liberace at the Free Trade Hall. I understand that those weren't rock concerts, though teenage girls (will someone tell me why girls of 13 are so attracted to homosexuals - are girls embryonically gay at that age?) screamed at both. But this is different. The guitars are amplified to rouse the whole of London, the drummer is capable of waking the dead, the Everly Brothers are waiting in the wings, and Paul Simon, tiny behind his guitar, battling with it as though it's doing its best to escape him, like a sheep refusing to be sheared, surely means to be a rocker, no matter that the folkie in him is never far away.

The "means to be" is apparently where the difference lies. He can't silence in himself the lyric poet. Not that anyone other than me, desperate to say I've been to a rock concert just once before I die, cares what we call the music we're listening to. These are all our yesterdays, songs we had our first crush to, fell in love to, left our wives and husbands to, got our first degrees and doctorates to. We also liked America then. What lyric genius Americans enjoyed in the middle of the last century, what wit and sweetness they brought to the popular song. Gone for good, all that. The language too sophisticated, the feelings too subtle. And that too is what we're here to lament.

I hear people chanting the mantra that this is a never to be repeated event, that they don't expect to see Simon and Garfunkel together again in London, but it's the like of the songs we are really saying goodbye to - college music, playing to an idea of ourselves unabashed by education, proud to be ambivalent, sad about our fag-end world ("Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?") but revelling at the same time in the vitality it still possessed, ourselves before the crass democracy of nihilism swept over us.

Forgive me. I am grown a little weepy. It isn't only the music that's doing it. Or the appearance of Garfunkel, somewhat stretched in the face now, with that too old to be so young look, recalling the ill-temper that would sometimes creep across Sinatra's countenance, as though the burden of bearing everyone else's past was getting too much for him to sustain. There was always something about Garfunkel that appealed to me, maybe that neurasthenic air, the skin too fine, the feelings pulsing too close to the surface. He played it well in films like Carnal Knowledge and Bad Timing - sensitivity turning rancid in front of your very eyes. I used to think that if they did a Dorian Gray on me and opened me up they'd find a version of Garfunkel. Not such a pretty proposition any more. I want who I truly am inside to be a boy still, high browed, hair golden, eyes unclouded by experience.

What's actually getting to me though - rock concert virgin that I am - is how big the crowd is. This is literary festival season. Hay, Dublin, Dartington, Edinburgh ... And I've been pulling them in, I can tell you. Filling a tent here, a hall there. Three, four hundred grey-haired country ladies all of whom have given one another the apostrophe book for Christmas and are now taking their chance with a novelist (himself no mean apostrophist), their husbands in unwilling tow just in case it gets steamy in my tent, since what I apostrophise is thought to be a little on the adult side. My spiel over, they ask polite if not always intelligible questions, they clap, they cheer, they sometime stomp, and upwards of three of them might even buy a book. Do this every weekend, reader, and you come to fancy you are something of an icon yourself, the page your stage, the chair-confined your groupies, the sophistication of your prose style all the amplification you need. Until you come to Hyde Park on a warm July evening and see what it is really like to be loved.

This is how I once imagined it would be for novelists. The park, as far as the eye can see, awash with readers calling for their favourite passage, unable to contain their excitement when they recognise the opening words, the novel it comes from, mouthing along with you, phrase for phrase, syllable for syllable. Then, when it's over and you have wrung your hands to thank them for their lifetime of support, for their reading absolutely no one else, their begging you for more, just one more chapter, one more page, just one more line.

I accede to their demands, else the streets of London will not be safe tonight, and read the concluding line of the first paragraph of my new novel. "There is no word for the sound a life makes." Coo, coo, ca-choo.

On the front row a woman my age weeps.

I know now what I know. I should have been a rock star.

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