The Irish novelist Anne Enright did a reading at the Union Square Barnes & Noble in Manhattan last Wednesday as part of the store’s “Upstairs at the Square” series. I attended and liveblogged the event.
7:04: Katherine Lanpher just introduced the event. It’s going to be an hour of readings
accompanied by songs from the indie band Camphor.
7:06 Fun Fact: Anne E. was a 12-1 longshot to win the Man Booker Prize last year. So bookies can be wrong.
707: Veronica, the main character of the novel, life starts to unravel after the suicide of her brother Liam. “It is about how memory and history merge.”
7:09: Veronica, to put it mildly, has issues. She and her sister Kitty were farmed out one summer, breaking up the family
7:11: While she was describing the main character Veronica, Enright describes her as having has “the most marvelous breakdown” during school hours when her children are away.
7:13: Camphor began singing Bones by Max Avery Lichtenstein. The song corresponds beautifully to the reading. “Everywhere you look are piles of bones/And everyone you meet is piles of bones.”
7:15: We are allowed to clap now, and the audience does, heartily.
7:16: AE accurately points out that so many narrators in novels are only children. Veronica on the other hand comes from a huge family.
7:18: Interesting fact: Even though divorce has been introduced to Ireland, many people still do not get divorced.
7:19: Nice dig at Manhattanites: AE accurately points out that most people in the world identify themselves through their families. “People in Manhattan may not, people in London may not.,” but ordinary people do.
7:20: Irish reviewers found the book grim. Enright defends it by saying “It is quite like disaspora work, it is like people who mourn the people they left behind.”
7:22: Lanpher points out that along with grim, Enright has been called brave. AE: Brave! I never saw the danger.
7:24: What challenges were there in writing about sexual absuse? AE: In the 90s evrryone was talking about what was happening to them. “The thing that Veronica knows is that finally there are things that did happen.”
7:25: We live in a pornographic age… I am reclaiming ground that has been stolen… and nobody seems to mind, and that’s really weird…women are really keen to become objects…the woman on the poster, she isn’t going to tell you want you want.
7:27: You don’t choose to love your children, you don’t choose to love your parents, you don’t choose to love your family.
7:29: After that intense bit, AE assures us that there are “funnier bits” in the book.
7:30: The description of Liam’s suicide is chilling. “He probably thought, as the cold water filled his shoes, cleansing thoughts.”
7:31: We return to the band. Camphor, fyi, is the smell of mothballs. It is used in moth repellent and fireworks. It is also used in the embalming of the dead.
7:34: Max, lead singer of Camphor, is trained as a trapeze artist. “Well, not trained,” he said. But he has been doing it for many years.
7:36: Katherine: Novelists love it when things unravel. AE: …Unraveling is a lovely idea.
7:37: The band members look and speak like they are members of an indie rock band. Max vaguely reminds me of Ethan Hawke.
7:39: Ooh, a cheerful song! The first few notes are very uplifting, Of course, it’s about being robbed blind by a woman you trust. I like it.
7:43: That was confidence is shattered. Rousing applause.
7:44: You write with precision of things we cannot be sure of. AE: the premise of this is stuff happens… so [Veronica] is trying to achieve a happy ending… At one point she says, “I’m living my life within inverted commas…
She referenced a DH Lawrence poem: A song for the woman who came through.
7:46: On if the book is autobiographical: “…No it’s a book, you know. I wrote it. Made it up.”
7:48: AE says that her stories and characters stay with her for a long time after she writes them. 2-3 years.
7:50: it’s already time for the last reading. ☹
AE: Our families contain everything…
7:54: The last song is lush and melodic. It’s called Sundown.
7:55: A nice warm round of applause all around.