Saturday, October 20, 2007

Author stalking: Alice Sebold

So I went to the Alice Sebold reading on Thursday, which was, to my surprise, not that crowded. I got there SUPER early, since every other reading I've attended at Barnes has always completely filled up by like 6:20, but there were only a handful when I got there. They ended up clearing away rows of seats to make it look less empty. Surprising since The Almost Moon has been everywhere lately.

Anyway, Alice Sebold was 15 minutes late, but when she came in, it was funny because she was exactly what I'd pictured her to be like. She started the reading off with a poem by Wislawa Szymborska, which was really nice (I've read only one of her poems before, a really great poem actually). Then she read a little from the beginning of her novel. I like the way she reads, its smooth and slow, captures perfectly the tone of her book. You can hear the way she meant for it to sound.

Afterwards, she took some questions. There were questions ranging from "Do you have a family? Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?" to "Why didn't you KILL Mr. Harvey in Lovely Bones in a more torturous way!!" to "What does your own mom think about Almost Moon?" (since the book is about a woman murdering her mother). She answered all the questions politely, even sort of funnily. I liked her. She wasn't super charismatic or anything, but she seemed patient and kind and appreciative of her audience.

What I found interesting was when she was asked how she picked her topics for her books. And she said she picked obsessions that had stayed with her for awhile, and then she just had to create characters strong enough to deal with these obsessions. Someone asked her if the first line of the book was the first line she had written and she said, no, how she had spent a long time trying to figure out what the story was, and whose point of view it had to be told from, so that by the time she finally got around to writing the beginning that it is now, she already knew a lot of what had happened.

I went to get my copy of the book signed, along with my copy of Lucky (my mom currently has Lovely Bones with her so I couldn't bring that). The BN lady was like, "What edition of the book is this?" and I was all confused for a second, because I hadn't realized it wasn't the same edition as the one that is currently being sold. Then I realized I had bought the book when I was in HK, so I told her so. Alice was like, "Oh yeah, this is different," and the BN lady was like, "Doesn't have the rabbit's foot." So on my way out I checked the cover of the US edition, and sure enough, the cover has a rabbit's foot, while mine has a pink hair ribbon. I hadn't even known, but my guess is because people in HK would have had no idea what the hell a rabbit's foot symbolizes.

On a side note, as I was sitting waiting (reading submission pieces for my workshop), the guys behind me were having an animated convo about other readings, including one guy who talked about the number of times he went to see Tao Lin. He recounted how Tao Lin read a poem, this one actually, and how he was able to read the thing in its entirety without once changing his expression or tone of voice. Hilarious.

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