fredag, november 09, 2007

Orhan Pamuk: The Hunk and the Drunk

He's so dreamy. The 2006 Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature spoke in Buffalo last night, at Babeville. His novel Snow was part of the City's "If All of Buffalo Read the Same Book." When snow is a powerful force in one's life it is difficult to find descriptions that are precise enough to place the reader outside at night experiencing a familiar particular pattern of a snowfall and the isolation it creates. He spent three years writing Snow. It reads as if he divided his research time between Kars and Greenland.

I dragged my husband and high schooler kicking and screaming to the pre-event cocktail party. I listen to history books on tape. My husband reads books in Swedish. The high schooler deals with five hours of homework every evening. She reads what she has to and not a sentence more. We really aren't so inside the area's literary community.

"We won't know anyone there."
"I have a quiz in every class tomorrow."

And it was awkward. Feeling like a bunch of clog wearers at a disco reunion, I decided to ramp it up and pretend we were there on business. Like any good sociophobe forced to small talk with strangers, I drained two glasses of wine, fast. (I explained to my jaw-dropped daughter that this was my MO and yeah my bad.) Once pumped giddy, I walked about the room finding victims to introduce myself to and push over to meet my family who ended up enjoying themselves and appreciating the chance to meet such a great, personable author. I hate that it takes alcohol to unfreeze my legs and hand-shaking arm when I stand in a crowd, but it works.

What did the author say? To the assembled group he described a novelist's roll as one where the writer cannot stay in his or her own shoes and offer a storied description. He must stand in the shoes of others and tell the tale. Pamuk offered no answers on how to fix the problems of the world, but suggested that a good starting point is to try to at least begin to understand another's perspective. In the novel the writer can combine all the forces that oppose each other from whatever direction, stand in the position of each force, and create a beginning, middle, and end that can help the reader gain new insights. When asked about the influence of television and video on reading and the future of literature, Pamuk's answer focused on the act of writing. People will always want to shut out the world and put their feelings down on a piece of paper. As long as they want to do that, literature will survive. The greatest novels ever? Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, Moby Dick, and Demons.

That and more he said to the assembled group in the sold-out hall. To just the three of us he confided that the King of Sweden's sister is a terrible bore as a table mate.

She probably just needed a little more wine.

Photo via Hallwalls.