Event: Conversation: Per Petterson & Marilynne Robinson, with Radhika Jones
Participants: Per Petterson, Marilynne Robinson, Radhika Jones
Attendance: Very strong - more than 100.
Logline: For us - a chance to Robinson.
Impressions: We couldn't stay as long as we wanted but getting a chance to see and hear Robinson was one of the highlights of trip, including her brief reading from Gilead.
Highlights: Paris Review editor Philip Gourevitch introduced the event and then retreated to the audience to watch ... Discussing Housekeeping, Robinson said, "I thought I was writing an unpublishable novel." ... A friend gave it to his agent without telling her ... Her favorite literature is (no surpise) 19th century American ... A video of her reading from Gilead appears below: (We just posted it so it might take a little while to show up.)
Event: Conversation: Kiran Desai & Vikram Chandra, with Rachel Donadio
Participants: Kiran Desai, Vikram Chandra, Rachel Donadio
Attendance: Spotty for such a headline event - Rain must have been a factor.
Logline: Two of India's brightest young literary lights in conversation.
Impressions: Smart and lively participants but an opportunity missed owing to some uninspired moderation.
Highlights: The event was held in the magnificent new auditorium at the Morgan Library and really should have drawn a bigger crowd ... Salman Rushdie was there to take in the event ... And although Donadio was clearly well familar with both Sacred Games and The Inheritance of Loss, the questions ranged from the likes of "Who are your influences?" to "How did you handle structuring your book?" - serviceable enough but a bit college paper for our tastes, which had the unfortunate effect of creating two separate talks going on instead of bringing the two writers into real conversation ... and the event themes of Home and Away? Nowhere in evidence ... In spite of this, there were still interesting bits ... Desai spoke of being influenced by Chandra's manifesto "The Cult of Authenticity" ... Chandra described the Bombay underworld as "practical gentlemen who realize you have to travel to make a buck" ... He thought, at the outset, that Sacred Games would be a short book about local crime but it led him to the nexus of organized crime, religion, media, politics ... He discussed using Microsoft Project to help him track the whereabouts of his many characters ... He is interested in using "data structures to examine patterns in narratives" (He's a self-proclaimed computer geek who used to write programs) ... Desai feels that she used her novel to teach herself how to write ... and wondered about the usefulness of paying attention to critics.
More event coverage to follow, including Sam Tanenhaus's lively panel on Art and Politics and the big Believer event. We're typing as fast as we can ...