I'm very pleased to see that Lyon's International Forum On The Novel is taking place again this year, from May 26 to June 1. The theme is: "The novel - what an invention!" Last year's forum was the inaugural event and it attracted some big names. Here are some of the anglophone authors showing up this year:
Annie Proulx, Joseph O’Connor (Ireland), Nelly Arcan (Canada), Karen Connelly (Canada), Dennis Cooper (USA), Kirsty Gunn (New Zealand), Jonathan Lethem (USA), Daniel Mendelsohn (USA), David Peace (UK), Suhayl Saadi (UK), Adam Thirlwell (UK) and Alissa York (Canada). There are in fact some 80 writers attending.
However, I really hope the format this time round allows for a bit more discussion and improvisation on the part of the authors. There was a tendency for things to get a bit dry last year: the writers read out prepared pieces on the given theme (sometimes very academic and inaccessible) and then there was only time for the odd question from a panel of two or three "experts". I prefer more time for raw questions and answers, and more of a chance for the audience to interact with the authors. This is France, though, and they do seem to like these events to be very orderly and controlled. We'll see.
Oh, and there's some wonderful news about an amazing book I've just finished reading.
The Vintner's Luck, a novel about a 19th century French winegrower who has an affair with an angel, is being made into a film. This was a superb book, with writing that made me shiver, and it'll be brilliant to see it portrayed on the big screen. The author is the New Zealander Elizabeth Knox, who received widespread acclaim for this book. I found it to be a little pearl of a novel, which is very hard to fit into any category or genre. It takes a little bit of time to get into the story, but once you surrender to the strange universe and poetic prose, the experience is unique and memorable.
The cast for the film looks interesting: the Belgian actor Jeremie Renier and the French actor Gaspard Ulliel will play the winegrower and the angel, while the New Zealand Oscar-nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes (star of the film Whale Rider) will play the winegrower's wife. American actress Vera Farmiga will play another important role. Filming has already started in a vineyard in Auckland, New Zealand, and it's reported there will also be scenes shot in France and Belgium. I can't wait to see what the director, Nicky Caro, does with this.
A few things have kept me away from writing and reading recently, and I am so eager to get back to normal!
First of all, my computer blew up! I smelt something burning when I was downloading some video footage and I didn't figure out what was going on until it was too late. Bang! I'm praying that no important data has been lost; my last big "saving spree" was a few weeks back. This is a timely reminder to those of you who have not saved copies of your precious words or photos. Do it now! Computers, no matter how new, can go on the blink at any moment! We bought ours in 2006! (I'm writing this on the "courtesy" laptop they make available while repairs are carried out. Thank goodness we paid extra to extend the warranty!)
The other anti-writing/reading event was the flu. It hit me between the eyes and forced me to take a week off work. The last time I remember being confined to bed was about 10 years ago. A dry, annoying cough is still hanging around, but I'm trying to make it feel unwelcome. I'm now enjoying a great blend of plants and essential oils after an overdose of horrible chemicals!
The good news, though, is that my visa has come through for our two-week trip to India in April (I won't even begin to tell you about the administrative nightmare this entailed!). What should I read to get in the mood? What literary sights/activities should I seek out in New Delhi and Nagpur? Do share your thoughts if you've been there.
The other good news, in terms of trying to nail down more time for creative writing, is that I've finally managed to reduce the hours at work by about 10 percent, which will give me two weeks off every two months. Yes! It was crazy not to do this earlier. I will earn 10 percent less, but I will be happier. I will also have fewer nasty nightshifts to do! Now there's no excuse for not making lots of writing progress in 2008!
Oh, by the way, if you ever spill oodles of candle wax over a shiny black piano (how stupid could I be? I will blame the flu) then just remember that a credit card is your answer. No, I used it to scrape, silly ... not to buy another piano! I was beside myself, thinking I'd burnt and scarred my lovely, until good old Google gave me the reassuring advice I needed. All is well. She is still managing to reach the tricky high notes and look dazzling at the same time!