Thursday, April 26, 2007

Stanford Reading

I'll be reading with the fabulous Mohja Kahf at the Stanford University Bookstore in Palo Alto on Tuesday, May 1st, at 5:30. Please come, and spread the word!

Mama's Recap of last night's Town Hall Readings

Steve Martin presented.
Don DeLillo read from his forthcoming novel, Falling Man, which bored and annoyed Mama.
Tatyana Tolstaya was hilarious.
Saadi Youssef read poems about life in Paris.
Kiran Desai spoke quickly. "Lots of traffic in her head." She cracked Mama up.
Mama drooled over the very-sexy Alain Mabanckou, who read a poem to his mom in French.
Neil Gaiman was lovely. He read from his poem, "Instructions," Mama felt he was an old-style sufferer.
Nadine Gordimer read "The Ultimate Safari," prefacing it with the disclaimer that although she looks like an old woman now, her story is about an eleven year-old girl who leaves Mozambique for a refugee camp in South Africa.
Salman Rushdie read last, and Mama said he waxed philosophical and she couldn't wait for him to shut up. When I asked her why she dislikes him so much, she said he seemed intensely vain.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Literary Conversations with Mama: The Feet Feet Feet Edition

My Mama came to visit me last week to attend the Hopwood Ceremony and keep me company. We talked about everything under the sun; she was in an especially fun mood.

One of the funniest moments of the ceremony came afterwards, when one of the donors, a kind, elderly woman, told me she read my novel and loved it. "This is my mother," I said, and introduced her to Mama. The donor took my mother's hand and said, "I hope you don't take the book too personally."

"I haven't read it," Mama said, shooting me a look. I refuse to show either of my parents the novel until it comes out.

"I like all the shoe and foot images in the book," the donor said. I didn't realize it when I was writing, but feet and the idea of root-ed/lessness figures prominently in the text.

Later that week, Mama and I had lunch at Zingerman's and Mama began talking shit about Dr. Seuss.

"What did you read?"
"The Foot Book. There are many musical problems in his rhyme schemes."
"He annoys me."
"I cannot tell if he is just making the words simple for kids, or if he's an ass."
I shook my head.
"Oh... he's an ass."

I'll be in California early next week, so I won't be able to go to NYC for the World Voices Festival, but I gave Mama the tickets to tomorrow night's Writing Home event.

She asked me what the reading was about, and I read to her from the event's page: "When a writer knows home in his heart, his heart must remain subtly apart from it. He must always be a stranger to the place he loves, and its people. —William Morris"

She's going with her friend, a fellow recently naturalized American. I can picture them in the back row crying or cackling, or both. Can't wait to hear Mama's version of the night.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Christie in Munro Adaptation

Julie Christie is profiled over at the Times. She plays Fiona in "Away from Her," Sarah Polley's adaptation of the Alice Munro short story, "The Bear Comes Over the Mountain." From the profile:
“I have been rereading letters I wrote in the 1960s to a girlfriend and I sound so ghastly,” she said. “All I’m talking about is boys and parties and music. I pointed that out to my girlfriend. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘I used to think of you then as being deeply shallow.’ ‘Deeply shallow’ I was, then something happened.”

As she looked back over her life, it was the discovery of “people in the rest of the world,” she said — specifically, her discovery of politics in the 1970s, later reinforced by her longtime partner, the journalist Duncan Campbell — that led her to rethink her career. And it was then that she began to see herself in the movie industry “surrounded by all the things you hate most in life, which are consumerism and advertising and celebrity and false representation.”
I had a small crush on Christie because of Dr. Zhivago, but I fell in love with her hardcore when I saw Darling.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Department of More Cartwheels in the Clouds

My novel just took first place in the Hopwood Award for the novel, and the ceremony is tomorrow.
I've started a page where you can read some blurbs about the book. Hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Sorry about the silence. All the things I was freaking out about three weeks ago I've finished working on. And now, I'm heading out for a one week trip, so posts will resume next week...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

On Sympathy

That the NYT assigned Leon Wieseltier to review Sari Nusseibeh's new autobiography is somewhat akin to it assigning a meat lover to review a vegetarian cookbook. The analogous headline would read: Cookbook writer criticizes- but does not hate!- meat recipes. Seriously. Why didn't the Times ask Lorraine Adams or someone not known for consistently defending Israel to write this article? And here's an Ed Said question for you: when will there appear a review that discusses Palestine for the most part and allot Israel a peripheral place? The most offensive parts of the review, which appeared in this Sunday's Book Review, are the ones in which Wieseltier refers to Nusseibeh as a Palestinian among savages, an exception (because Wieseltier't read Arabic and I assume has never visited Palestinian cities); when he calls the apartheid wall a fence, and says it is "hideous as a matter of symbolism" when it is hideous as a matter of human rights violations; and when he criticizes Israel's mines in Southern Lebanon, but not its decimation of the entire country's infrastructure. But most offensive was that instead of spending his time reviewing the book, he worked himself up into a miniature harangue and defense of Israel.

The most ironic part is that the review is titled "Sympathy for the Other." At the end of this review, in which Wieseltier writes that Palestinians can't stop shooting their guns, I wondered who needed to have sympathy; who was the Other.