After an involuntarily blog hiatus caused by internet inexistence, computer downfall, travel escape and cherry-picking, I am back with you. It has been a long long break. But still every so often a reader crops up or writes to say they have enjoyed reading DLC and I am thrilled to the back teeth, to my back bone and to the very weedy end of my back yard. In the meantime I have escaped to Sorrento and London and will do the appropriate rambling in due course. Other blog posts will follow concerning my recent experiences with Pink Floyd, Simon and Garfunkel and Rod Stewart - in cosy Mediterranean Italy! But first, a reflection about author truths and lies following an article written by cleverchops Tim Parks, fellow latino expat who takes the cake.
Tim has written a thoughtful piece called 'Stupid Questions' in the New York Review of Books that had me chuckling. The savvy writer laments the stupid questions people ask at the end of author presentations at book festivals. Ever been to one and timidly raised your hand?
|Tim Parks = cool writer|
It reminded me of the time I spoke about DLC in Italian the Women's Festival in Matera. The journo approached me twenty minutes before we were on, told me she hadn't read the book, suggested we speak about the 'stallone italiano' (the Italian stud) and 'la crisi economica' (the economic crisis) to grab the audience's attention. As it happens there is an Italian lover in Marilyn's story - in the form of crazy Federico, lapsed agronomist and lapsed lover of Marilyn's cheeky Australian friend Fiona. Not exactly Stud Material. And as for the economic crisis that has hit Italy so hard.. our gal Marilyn stole away her husband's credit card, found a part-time job modelling erotica and taught English! So, err, she was still able to buy her designer clothes.
That interview was a tussle really, with me trying to be entertaining, raise a laugh out of a very serious audience, leap through language hoops, and catch the tail-end of the journo's ten-minute-long questions.
Parks has a point. Those in attendance don't really want to hear about the way you sit down in your pyjamas and ugg boots and do a deal with the devil not to check your post. They don't want to hear about how you took a trip to the moon between chapters 11 and 12, or that your goldfish died and made you think up that weird part, or you saw this cute guy in the bus, or that you were actually taken to a club where a man was led around on a dog leash. Or perhaps only smidgens of this. Yes, they do want to hear smidgens.
For your part you know perfectly well that there is an absolute continuity between this book and your life. You will talk about the book as if your were in control of its creation, and perhaps you are to a degree, but behind and before that is a vast hinterland of experience and events over which you had no control. Only you could have written this particular book, not because you are better or more imaginative than anyone else, but because you are you.. Who could it come from but you?
'Do you think your move to Italy altered the way you think and write?'
'Does your wife read your books and if so what does she think of them?'
Parks goes nuts over the 'shots in the dark' of the audience's questions and he has a point. The gulf between creation and its intention, and the sunhats and rows of plastic chairs under a tent, must be rather disorienting, even trying. I remember seeing Ngugi wa Thion'go speak in Mantova - whose breakthrough book was written in a prison cell on loo paper! My son and I sat in hallowed silence as the great man spoke, and were almost ashamed to have him sign our dog-chewed copy. Or the time that Toni Morrison spoke there too. Before she had finished her eloquent reflections that were a joy to hear - the autograph seekers were already forming a queue up to her chair!
Been to any cracking litfests lately? Or are you planning to this summer/winter? What would you ask the author of your favourite recent read?
And - go on then - what would you ask this crazy author about DLC??
.. They are groping for some kind of connection between the figure on the stage and the particular atmosphere of the novels they have read.. Yet even as you try and inevitably fail to answer their questions you are probably telling them more, in your perplexity and frustration, or your wryiness and charm, than you ever could have by explaining your book.
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Tim Parks' books Italian Neighbours and An Italian Education are as close to the bone as you will get to living in contemporary Italy.