Month: March 2008
On the flight back from New York, I was seated next to an eccentric older woman who seemed to think everyone’s job was to keep her entertained, informed, or/and comfortable. She asked a guy across the aisle to help her put her suitcase in the overhead bin, and then five minutes later asked him to pull it back down so she could search through it for reading materials. After she finally took her seat, she looked over at the novel I was reading.
She: “So you like Joseph Conrad?”
Me: “Yes, I do.”
She: “I have a first edition of one of his books.”
She: “I can’t remember the title, though. It’s the one about the boat captain.”
Me: “Several of his books have boat captains. Is it Heart of Darkness?”
Me: Lord Jim?
She: That one. But, you know, I don’t care for his writing.
Me: Oh no?
She: I bought the book because he’s so famous and a first edition of his is very valuable, which is what I’m interested in.
I must have had a horrified look on my face, because she immediately asked, “Wait, are you someone who’s into books? Are you a writer?” I nodded, and then took out my reading glasses to signify that I wanted to read now, and to please leave me alone, but she wouldn’t shut up. I got to hear about her earlier flight, the troubles she had with security people, etc. She complained that the coffee was lukewarm (“It’s a plane,” the attendant quipped), got drunk on red wine, snored when she slept, and woke me up when I finally managed to doze off so she could go use the bathroom. Every time I travel on an airplane, I become more of a misanthrope.
It is about 74 degrees in Los Angeles today and very sunny. Tomorrow, though, I’ll be heading out to Rochester, New York, where, according to the weather forecast, it will be snowy and 40 degrees. (That’s 3 degrees Celsius? Or 4? I don’t know. But bone-chilling cold either way.) The good people at Writers and Books have selected Hope for the 2008 If All of Rochester Read the Same Book. I’ll be doing a series of readings and talks in various venues around the city. So if you’re in the area, do come to one of the events and say hello. I’ll be the one with the blue lips and red nose.
There’s a great post by Bob Harris over at the New York Times‘ Paper Cuts blog, in which he lists the seven deadly words of book reviewing. In the comments section, people have been contributing their own loathed terms. Hop on over there and add yours.
My friend H. forwarded me this link to the Le Monde review of Fouad Laroui’s new novel, La femme la plus riche du Yorkshire. It’s about a young Moroccan university professor named Adam Serghini, who arrives in the English countryside for work, and, bored out of his mind, decides to conduct an ethnological study of the population. He sits in their preferred habitat (the pub) and takes scrupulous notes of their mores. He soon meets a rich old lady, with whom he obviously has nothing in common. Clash of civilizations–and typical Laroui humor–ensues.
Anyway, don’t bother looking up a date of release in the U.S. As incredible as it sounds, Laroui has never been translated into English. (Don’t look at me. I tried to get several editors interested in him, even offering to translate him, but no one has shown any interest.)