17.8.09

Lessons Learned


Back in Norway where I'm making a priority of blogging; easily done when the alternatives are emptying suitcases, cleaning away dead flies and dust, washing laundry, and emailing the car hire company that over-charged us (thrice) for car seats.
As you can see from the photo, I managed to make an impression on Kamila Shamsie despite my certainty that I wouldn't have the gumption to speak to her. It went like this.
I was shunted up to the front of the audience - which wasn't very big - and so had a false sense of security as I couldn't see the people behind me. No, contrary to what I might sometimes tell my children, I don't in fact have eyes in the back of my head. I just need them.
After the authors read, questions were invited by the curator, Colm Toibin. I was a bit embarrassed by a series of questions about being a Muslim which didn't seem very relevant to Ms Shamsie or her book (What do you think of the conception of Muslims in the west?!!!!), and so false bravery, and a sense of lets get the discussion back on track prompted me to raise my hand.
I'd like to ask a techinical question please,' I said. Ms Shamsie looked relieved to have the disussion steered away from religious generalizations and stereotyping and said 'Great!'
I asked her why she had chosen to tell her story from so many points of view; she frequently changes the point of view of her characters while they are mid-conversation. This is quite unusual these days with most - not all, most - writers keeping different characters' head spaces to seperate chapters or at least separate paragraphs of a novel. When I pointed this out there was this murmuring of 'that's not true!' from several people behind me, while the author was agreeing with me. It was really disconcerting to be disagreed with en masse in such a way; to say I was taken aback is an understatement. I was very upset. Poor sensitive little me.

Anyway, it was a week ago. I'm well over it-obviously. But when I went to have my copy of 'Burnt Shadows' signed, Ms Shamsie said, 'You must be a writer,'; I guess the naysayers in the audience were not and didn't really get what I was talking about with changes of narrative point of view. It didn't make me feel much better to know this but it was very nice of her to write such a nice note in my book. So I learned two things that day: I need to develop a much, much thicker skin, and when standing beside Colm Toibin in purple suede peep-toe ankle boots, I feel very, very tall.

7 comments:

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Aw, sweet! It is nerve-wracking asking a question but, as a writer, I always feel I owe it to writers to ask something semi-intelligent. You did well and f*** the rest of them.
Good on you!

Joanne said...

You and shoes, I cant see a high heeled pair without thinking of you!! The blog pic is just fabulous, where is it taken?

OSLO said...

Thanks Nuala :) Jo- the photo is from Mauranger Fjord about six hours drive north-west of Oslo. We spent a weekend there in May. The scenery was spectacular. Of course, it's a place where only sensible shoes will do :)

Batgirl said...

Wow - I would never have been able to point something like that out! Good going! :-) oh, and nice shoes!!

Juniper said...

Have been really wanting to start reading this book (Burnt Shadows). Having some trouble finding it in Malta. But next visit to the UK or states I hope to get it. I enjoy reading your blog (lived a few years in Norway so can relate to some of what you say and places you have been).

OSLO said...

Juniper - thanks for commenting. Does Amazon ship to Malta? Without it, I'd be REALLY stuck :)

OSLO said...

Batgirl - glad you like the shoes. The colour is much more 'luxe' than in the photo; not sure when I'll get to wear them again, but you never know...