Reading Recap: Caine I

Audience: About 40.
Anxiety index: 3 (out of 10).
Surprise guest(s): Novelist Leila Aboulela.
No. of Moroccans who said hello: 0. (Where are you?)

What a different experience last night’s reading was. People sat perfectly still and silent through the event–no one was late, no one fidgeted, no one’s cell phone rang. All the other authors spoke with a very proper British accent, and then I came on, sounding like a total Yankee. (Ah, but there was once a time when my ts weren’t flapped, and when my os weren’t so open!) Anyway, the reading went well, and we answered some questions about our work: How do we write? Do we enjoy writing non-fiction? What authors have influenced you? This last question always stumps me–it’s so hard to pick just one or two writers because there are so many that I admire, and for different reasons. I cited Chinua Achebe, for the inspiration, J.M. Coetzee, for the precision of his language, and Ahdaf Soueif, for her ability to write beautiful English and yet also render the rhythm of Egyptian Arabic. But I could just as easily have said Mohamed Choukri, for the devotion to truth, or Vladimir Nabokov, for the lyricism of his texts, or Graham Greene, for the complexity of his characters, or Abdellatif Laabi, or Rachid Mimouni, or Leila Abouzeid, or Abdulrazak Gurnah and on and on.