Literary Evening for Freeman's Launch

I don’t often get the chance to attend literary events , but when one is happening it’s img_3906-1usually in Paris and I try my damnedest to get there.  Tuesday night, the 11th of July, I had the pleasure of listening to Edwidge Danticat and Marie Darrieusseecq in promotion of Freeman’s The Best New Writing on Home at Shakespeare & Company in Paris.  This is the third literary anthology of Freeman’s and I’m really excited to discover some new and interesting writers that maybe I’m not that familiar with.

The evening began with waiting in line for seats.  I was accompanied by Manika and Silje both Booktubers you should check out and while waiting we couldn’t help but exchange on bookish topics until we were finally shown to our seats. Lucky for us we weren’t too badly placed.  The weather was nice.  A cool breeze with a hint of rain settled us all into our seats awaiting the commencement of the event.  It started just after 7pm.  John Freeman officiated the event, of course, and drove the talk with precision, asking and making pertinent questions and statements.  I was amazed to see that these two authors as different as they are, race and background, that they share some common ground in the themes they choose to write about.

Marie Darrieusseecq is a French author originally from Bayonne in the Basque region of France.  I was happy to discover her up close and personal since I have heard so much about her but have never read any of her books.  Her novels contain many recurring Being Herethemes – belonging and identity which both authors talked a lot about that evening.  Her latest novel, Being Here:  The Life of Paula Modersohn-Becker was released this month in English translation by The Text Publishing Company.  An excerpt of the novel can be found in Freeman’s if you’re interested in discovering her work before embarking on a full novel.  Darrieusseecq assured me that The Text Publishing Company translation is the best for Being Here: The Life of Paula Modersohn-Becker.  Just to get you a bit more interested in it, here’s the blurb on the front cover, “A burning intelligence and a fierce hold on what it meant and means to be a woman and a artist.” J.M. Coetzee. 😉

Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American writer who lives in Brooklyn.  She also writes aDeath lot about identity and belonging, as well as mother-daughter relationships and the diaspora.   Some of her more well-known novels are Breath, Eyes, Memory (her first novel), Krik? Krak! (short stories), and The Dew Breaker, among so many more. Known and loved for her short stories you can find the story All the Home You’ve Got in Freeman’s.  The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story is her newly released novel (July 11, 2017)  which focuses on Danticat’s mother dying of cancer and how death is treated in other novels by authors.

After a series of questions from John Freeman and discussion back and forth between the two authors, the floor was opened for questions.  I couldn’t think of anything to ask because my mind was racing with all the great things they’d said previously.  However there were a few great questions from the audience.  What was great was the lovely natural discussion and humor from both of these ladies.  They played off of each other and that was humorous.

This is the second time I’ve been to a literary event with discussion between two authors and I really do think this should become more of a regular occurrence because it brings to light even more profound discussion of literature, writing, and existence. Wishing that I had taped this event so that I could go back and compare once I’ve read more of their works, I happened upon the podcast version of that evening which I’ll link here.  Shakespeare and Company has a podcast of all of their author events at the link I posted.

Of course the evening wouldn’t have been complete without purchasing a few books and getting autographs.  Thorough as I am, I brought 4 books by Danticat to be autographed from home, which she graciously did. Meanwhile we had a very interesting conversation about reading books out of our comfort zones yet finding that they parallel some of the same themes we usually like to read about.  She also agreed with me about author events with 2 different authors that write about similar themes in different ways.

We finished off the evening with cocktails and more bookish  conversation and anticipating our next literary event…. Shakespeare and Company will surely deliver.

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Meeting Zadie Again

It was a breezy evening in Paris.  Shakespeare & Co was filled with its normal charm and groups of anxious, excited bibliophile tourists.  The ka-ching of the cash register couldn’t be missed from outside, which was filling up with hopefuls who wanted to catch a glimpse of or hear a few words from the illustrious Zadie Smith.  This would be her second visit to the famous Shakespeare & Co. in Paris – almost exactly one year since her first visit, which I was equally IMG_1750lucky to attend.  I waited with three friends hoping that arriving early would equate to available seating.  However that wasn’t so easy since this meeting was set up by New York University(where Zadie Smith teaches creative writing) for students and staff.  They paid so they got ninety percent of the seating.

All the festivities took place outside and that led to a different, noisier atmosphere.  Last year it took place inside Shakespeare & Co, where the staff lined tiny little stools among all the available space inside the less than spacious bookstore.  It was a tight squeeze but we all made the best of it because we were going to see Zadie.

Once all the chairs were lined up outside.  We finally grabbed four available seats and just prayed nobody would ask us to give them up. Whew! 7pm came and we were still seated. By this time there was an extremely thick crowd that surrounded the seating making for an impressive turnout.  Since I was in the back row i could feel people just behind my chair.

The festivities took off right on schedule.  Zadie’s opening act was none other than her husband Nick Laird, Irish novelist poet.  I had no idea he was going to be there.  He was a nice surprise though.  His rich Irish accent and his humorous, straightforward poems were refreshing.  I’m looking forward to picking up one of his collections.  He seemed a little nervous in the beginning but he soon warmed up to the crowd that was obviously mostly there to see his wife.  His poetry got lots of laughs and smiles and was an excellent debut before Zadie Smith.

At last Zadie started to speak and the silence from the audience contrasted hugely from the cars, trucks, buses and blaring horns that seemed to surround us.  Nevertheless, we all had our ears perked up for the story she read us which was a bit of the new novel she’s working on, that she called Swingtime.  Love the title and adored what she read.  It was about two little black girls and their meeting for the first time and recounting a birthday party they attended.  It was all IMG_1796very Zadie Smith – race and class conscious, sensitive, a strong first person voice.  It was everything I love about her books.  I could see that they inspire each other.  The strong first person voice is present in both their work.

After her reading quite a few pages 😀 to us the book buying recommenced and the lines for book signing lengthened quickly.  It didn’t take too long before I found myself in front of Zadie again.  She signed my three books that I didn’t get signed last time – The Autograph Man, On Beauty, and Changing My Mind:  Occasional Essays.  She was very pretty and dressed in a cute dress which looked thrifted.  Her brown turban was covering her hair as usual  but making her bright wide eyes stand out on her beautifully freckled face.  She was smiling but not nearly as much as the first time I saw her.  She seemed tired.  All in all I was happy to see her for a second time and hear a bit of the new book she’s working on, which I can’t wait to read.  Apparently she’s been working on a film with her husband but not sure when it’s coming out or what it’s about.