I'd been meaning to see the Lichtenstein exhibition since I first heard about it, but in the end I almost missed it, only getting in because kind friends lent me their membership card so I could skip the queue.
I love all the comic panel images, but there was plenty on display I hadn't seen before. I particularly liked the seascapes, and a perfect Mondrian pastiche with the trademark Benday dots making up the coloured square. Another woman and I saw this one at the same time and simultaneously laughed out loud.
Right at the end I discovered I'd missed the room with Whaam! and all the other famous comic book stuff in - I'd glimpsed it off to one side, but assumed it was being saved till last as a special treat. It wasn't, and I had to go all the way back. Worth it, though.
Saturday: James Salter at the South Bank
In 2007 I bought a novel called The Hunters by James Salter. I'd heard of neither book nor author, but it had aeroplanes on the cover and I wanted something to take on an upcoming holiday. The first clue that I had something special was when a colleague, whose judgement I trusted because he was a huge J. G. Ballard fan, pounced on it and started raving about it. I read it all round Germany, and on my return pressed it on everyone I could think of. Salter, like the hero of his novel, was in the Korean war flying F-86 Sabres, so all the details ring true, and he is also a brilliant writer.
When I saw that the author was talking about his new and probably last novel, All That Is, as part of the South Bank Literary Festival, I bought a ticket straight away. The guy is 87 and lives in the USA, so how many chances was I going to get?
I haven't read the new one, a decades-spanning story about a man born in the same year as Salter, 1925, but from the onstage discussion with a member of the South Bank staff, there's an awful lot of sex in it.
"Have you had that much sex?" asked the interviewer.
"More," Salter replied.
Then he read a passage about blow jobs which was easily the best depiction of oral sex in literature I have ever encountered.
Afterwards I queued to have my paperback Hunters signed. Handing it over, I blurted out "What was it like flying Sabres?", a topic mysteriously not covered during the interview or subsequent Q&A.
"Oh, I can't tell you in one word," he said. "It's a kick, that's what it is. It's wonderful."
What a guy.
A cool coincidence
On Friday I found myself wondering what kind of aircraft is depicted in Whaam!. A little googling revealed the consensus that the Whaam! plane looks more like a Mustang than anything else, but is more likely an idealised artistic impression of a fighter. The aircraft in the original comic panel from All-American Men of War, however, is an F-86 Sabre.