Session #191: ‘The Big Reading’: Mitchell, Cunningham, Obreht, Miller, Abdolah:
Just a short post on this afternoon’s ‘Big Reading’ – a SWF stalwart session. This year was a real cavalcade of literary luminaries: in reading order:
1. Kei Miller: reading from The Same Earth – not his most recent work, but his debut novel. A charming section describing a peculiar ‘countdown’ naming convention used by a family of 6 – which started with a boy who became known as ‘Five’ and then subsequent siblings right down to ‘Zero’, a simple boy who witnessed something horrific, something that changes him forever.
2: David Mitchell: reading something from his next novel! It’s part set in the future – a very dystopic future by the look of things! – and the main theme of the piece he read out was ageism. Not surprisingly for Mitchell, there are more than one narrative strand – one set in this future world, another set in the ‘Land of Youth’ … very intriguing and wonderful to hear something fresh. Kudos to him.
3. Tea Obreht: reading part of the chapter from her acclaimed The Tiger’s Wife (see my review here) which introduces us to her wonderful – and much loved – character: ‘The Deathless Man’.
4. Kader Abdolah: easily the most moving of tonight’s stories: Kader told an autobiographical story. He is from Iran and fled as a refugee, in the process letting down his father because he left him behind. He ended up in The Netherlands and then tried several quite humorous (and heartbreaking) times to get into the USA. He learnt Dutch and now writes in Dutch (even translating the Koran into Dutch too). To get up and speak as he did about his life in English was brilliant. He then read us a few brief lines from his book The House of the Mosque. He said the book was his way of travelling home to Iran, the place he can only go now in the imagination. Wonderful.
5. Michael Cunningham: he of the Pulitzer Prize winning The Hours fame, followed in David’s steps by reading us a chapter called The Snow Princess from his next novel, which focussed on the body of a woman who has been dead a week, her body frozen in death in the snow, how she was in a state of ‘in between’ – some of which he had written only last night! (He said he gets a little weary of reading from what are for him ‘old’ novels.) Another very exciting glimpse into the stories that will be hitting bookshelves, kindles, i-pads, etc, etc, in the (hopefully) not-to-distant future. I dare say Cunningham fans will not be disappointed.
Enjoyed it immensely and will be looking out for Miller and Abdolah’s work, which I’ve not yet read.