For those of you who are lucky to be in Paris in February this is the Shakespeare and Company, February, 2013 newsletter.
SHAKESPEARE & COMPANY
EVENTS AT A GLANCE
Friday 1st February 7pm
Stephanie LaCava on An Extraordinary Theory of Objects Monday 4th February 7pm
Concert with Yo Zushi
Tuesday 12th February 7.30pm
Kevin Powers on The Yellow Birds Thursday 14th February 7pm
Paul Murray, author of Skippy Dies
Wednesday 20th February 3pm
Children’s Hour with Kate Stables Thursday 21st February 7pm
Becoming a Writer/Staying a Writer with Louise Doughty
Friday 22nd February 6pm
Philosophers in the Library with Hammam Aldouri Monday 25th February 7pm
Denis Hirson, Ellen Hinsey and Nancy Huston
Snow has been falling these past couple of weeks and covering Paris in a sparkling blanket of white, soon flecked with the grit of thousands of Parisians stomping through, bundled in hats and coats and scarfs and breathing puffs of cold air. At the bookshop, we’ve been hibernating from the winter chill and the snow at our doorstep, but beavering away inside, sprucing up and stripping away ready for a new year. We’ve now installed a projector in the library to complement our fabulous (but very discreet) cinema screen, so watch out for some cosy film screenings over the next few months. Over February, we’ll be running footage from the archives, so pop in and you might catch a glimpse of life at Shakespeare and Company in decades gone by.
To celebrate our reopening, we have a particularly jam-packed and vibrant events programme this month, from Stephanie LaCava, author of an exquisite, oddball memoir about growing up in Paris, to Kevin Powers, Iraq war veteran and critically acclaimed author of The Yellow Birds, and Skippy Dies author Paul Murray, to a new edition of the ever-popular Philosophers in the Library, and a joint reading from three much-admired Paris-based writers.
Photograph by David Grove
Don’t forget, if you are unable to come to a particular event and want a signed copy of one of the author’s books (we can also post it to you) please email Alice.
Most events take place upstairs in the library (40 seats), on the ground level (50 seats) or outside in front of the bookshop. During the events, the sound from the reading and discussions is projected around the entire bookshop. We recommend you arrive 15–30 minutes early to try to get a seat as there is limited space.
FRIDAY 1ST FEBRUARY 7PM
We are delighted to present journalist Stephanie LaCava with her captivating literary debut, An Extraordinary Theory of Objects.
An awkward, curious girl growing up in a foreign country, Stephanie LaCava finds solace and security in strange yet beautiful objects. When her father’s mysterious job transports her and her family to the quaint Parisian suburb of Le Vésinet, everything changes for the young American. Stephanie sets out to explore her new surroundings and to make friends at her unconventional international school, but her curiosity soon gives way to feelings of anxiety and a deep depression. In her darkest moments, Stephanie learns to filter the world through her peculiar lens, discovering the uncommon, uncelebrated beauty in what she finds. Encouraged by her father through trips to museums and scavenger hunts at antique shows, she traces an interconnected web of narratives of long-ago outsiders, and of objects historical and natural, that ultimately help her survive.
A series of illustrated essays that unfolds in cinematic fashion, An Extraordinary Theory of Objects offers a universal lesson – to harness the power of creativity to cope with loneliness, sadness, and disappointment to find wonder in the uncertainty of the future.
Interview with Stephanie LaCava
Daily Beast review of An Extraordinary Theory of Objects
Realism Deficiency: book trailer for An Extraordinary Theory of Objects
MONDAY 4TH FEBRUARY 7PM
“This could be the start of something major” – ****, Q Magazine
Yo Zushi, described by Mary Anne Hobbs of BBC Radio 1 as “the spirit of Bob Dylan for the 21st century”, has released two albums on Pointy Records, as well as an EP on Italy’s Best Kept Secret Tape Label. Q Magazine gave his debut album, Songs From a Dazzling Drift, four stars, saying: “This could be the start of something major.”
The Word praised his “perfectly constructed lyricism”; Dazed & Confused called his music “a masterclass in storytelling”. In 2008, Zushi released his second album, Notes For Holy Larceny (five stars – Amelia’s Magazine; “A raw… intriguing talent” – Steve Lamacq, BBC Radio 2), followed by a series of EPs and singles in 2009. Zushi has played on bills with Joanna Newsom, Scritti Politti, Willy Mason, Rachel Unthank, the Magic Numbers, Patrick Wolf and Micah P Hinson, among others. After a few years off, Zushi is back with dozens of new songs, some of which will soon be released through his blog Board of Fun
TUESDAY 12TH FEBRUARY 7.30PM
In collaboration with Stock, we are very excited to present Kevin Powers, author of the critically acclaimed, award-winning The Yellow Birds. An unforgettable depiction of the psychological impact of war, by a young Iraq veteran, The Yellow Birds is already being hailed as a modern classic. Described as the “All Quiet on the Western Front for the Arab wars” by Tom Wolfe and “a classic of contemporary war literature” by The New York Times, The Yellow Birds is also the winner of the Guardian First Book Award, and a finalist in the National Book Awards. It was chosen as a book of the year in 2012 by The New York Times, The Times, The Independent, the TLS, and The Irish Times, among many others.
Kevin Powers was born and raised in Richmond, VA. In 2004 and 2005 he served with the U.S. Army in Mosul and Tal Afar, Iraq. He studied English at Virginia Commonwealth University after his honourable discharge and received an M.F.A. in Poetry from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin in 2012.
Interview with Kevin Powers
The New York Times review of The Yellow Birds
THURSDAY 14TH FEBRUARY 7PM
“A triumph. . . brimful of wit and narrative energy” – Sunday Times
In collaboration with Belfond, we are very happy to present Paul Murray, author of Skippy Dies (2010) and An Evening of Long Goodbyes (2003). A former bookseller, Paul Murray was born in 1975. He studied English literature at Trinity College in Dublin and has a Masters degree in creative writing from the University of East Anglia. His first novel, An Evening of Long Goodbyes, was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize in 2003 and was nominated for the Kerry Irish Fiction Award. His most recent book, Skippy Dies, described as a tragi-comic masterpiece about growing up and learning about life in a Dublin boarding school, was longlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize and received a staggering amount of critical acclaim.
Paul Murray is in France to promote the French publication of Skippy Dies, Skippy dans les étoiles (Belfond). We can’t wait to hear from him…
Review of Skippy Dies
WEDNESDAY 20TH FEBRUARY 3PM
Children’s Hour – music, rhythm and stories for kids: Bring your children (2-6 year-olds, siblings welcome too) to the library at Shakespeare and Company for an hour of music, songs and stories in English (for all nationalities, even those who don’t speak English). Led by the magic Kate Stables, mum and singer/songwriter from This is the Kit, this lovely event is fast becoming an institution. There will be instruments to play and a lot of noise to make! Four euros donation appreciated.
THURSDAY 21ST FEBRUARY 7PM
Becoming a Writer/Staying a Writer: novelist Louise Doughty will talk about the practicalities of becoming a writer and staying one in today’s difficult and exciting climate.Doughty is the author of six previous novels, including Whatever You Love, which was shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year Award and longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. She also wrote A Novel in a Year, a book about writing, based on her hugely popular newspaper column, which drew tens of thousands of responses worldwide. What is it that makes so many people want to write a novel and how do they go about it? How useful are writing courses, writers’ groups, blogs and self-publishing? Most importantly, how does any novelist keep his or her nerve in the face of rejections or bad reviews – and how does anyone combine a writing life with the practicalities of earning a living, having relationships or a family?
Louise Doughty’s seventh novel, Apple Tree Yard, will be published by Faber & Faber UK in June. She has worked widely as a journalist and broadcaster in the UK and was a judge for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for fiction.
FRIDAY 22ND FEBRUARY 6PM
This edition of Philosophers in the Library will focus on the philosophical concept most strongly associated with G.W.F. Hegel’s philosophy and its legacy: ‘dialectic.’ Notwithstanding the complex and diverse theoretical reception of the concept (most notably in the historical forms that structure ‘post-‘, ‘anti-‘, and ‘neo-‘ Hegelianism), not to mention the notorious difficulty of Hegel’s own philosophical exposition, this talk will move at a consciously rudimentary level, staying close to only a small number of critical moments in Hegel’s work (especially the Phenomenology of Spirit) and attempting to expose and explicate as clearly as possible central themes and salient meanings found therein. Accordingly, the talk will advance through a series of basic reflections: it will inquire into the identity of the dialectic (“what is it?”), its operation (“how does it work?”) and its consequences (“what happens as a result of dialectics?”). In the attempt to demystify Hegel’s dialectic at an introductory level, it will hopefully become clear in what sense Hegel’s thought is still of relevance today. No prior knowledge of Hegel or philosophy in general is necessary – Philosophers in the Library is open to everyone!
MONDAY 25TH FEBRUARY 7PM
Three English-speaking writers living in Paris, Nancy Huston, Ellen Hinsey and Denis Hirson, will all be reading from their work. To honour the passing of George Whitman and the new page that has turned at Shakespeare and Company, they have chosen texts which all relate to the essential energies freed by rites of passage. Are there any stronger moments in our lives than those concerning birth, love and death? That is when we use our deepest fuel, when our strongest writing is done. Come and listen to three writers putting this idea to the test.
5TH FEBRUARY – 2ND MARCH, TRAFALGAR STUDIO 2, LONDON’S WEST END
FIESTA (The Sun Also Rises)
Based on Ernest Hemingway’s classic
Adapted by Alex Helfrecht with Sam Snape FIESTA is a fiercely original theatrical experience, fusing explosive theatre, live jazz performance and dynamic choreography into a play that sees the sensual beauty and the raw brutality of Ernest Hemingway’s tale of love, loss and decadence.
Here’s a little teaser trailer
Book tickets here
STAFF AND TUMBLEWEED PICKS
WONDER BY RJ PALACIO
This is a wonderful, heart-breaking story about a ten year old boy whose face is severely deformed from birth. His state is so rare that doctors consider him a medical wonder. People point, stare, gasp, shriek – something August never gets used to. In this book, narrated by August and later by other children, we follow his first year at school and the challenges it brings, the changes people make and the eventual friendships formed over more than beauty. Similar to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. — Sylvia
AN EXTRAORDINARY THEORY OF OBJECTS BY STEPHANIE LACAVA
This is a graceful and oddball memoir about trying to grow up in a foreign city (Paris, when you are American). It chronicles mental illness, alienation and the struggles of adolescence (I’m about the same age as the author and found the analysis of grunge and Kurt Cobain and the cardigan pretty nostalgic), but, as the author found solace in curious and compelling objects, so do we. The text is sprinkled with exquisite line drawings and meandering footnotes on each strange little talisman that Stephanie hoarded. For example, a trip to the shop to buy sugar-dusted violet candies becomes a rumination on the violet through history (“one of the few flowers that flourishes in winter”) – violet crystals, violet wine, violet perfume… A melancholy and magical story. — Laura
HOW TO READ THE AIR BY DINAW MENGESTU
The road that brought me to Shakespeare and Company this year began in Addis Ababa, so when I saw the name Dinaw Mengestu on the contemporary fiction shelf I immediately recognized it as Ethiopian. Mengestu’s sophomore novel is not about Ethiopia per se, but speaks more broadly to the restlessness of youth, love, immigrants, Americans: in short, it excludes no one from its considerations for what it means to alive in a highly mobile world. But the message Mengestu conveys through his protagonist – a storyteller who, appropriately enough, is in the process of finding his own voice by rewriting his family’s history – is that while restlessness is a common experience, we each have a unique story to tell, and the act of narration alone can lead to deliverance, even if we never stop moving: “She had packed up her entire life before, and now, six months later, if she had learned anything at all about herself, it was that she could do with far less. She could, if she wanted, get away with almost nothing.” — Ellen
THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE BY WILLIAM STRUNK JR. & E. B. WHITE / ILLUSTRATED BY MAIRA KALMAN
For my birthday I received a gorgeous, red-cloth edition of The Elements of Style, the iconic grammar and composition guide written by William Strunk in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1957 and again in 1979. This 2005 edition adds glorious illustrations from the magical, witty Maria Kalman, whose work I first fell in love with when it appeared in the New York Times op-ed pages. Grammar nerds, you just may find yourself scratching your pet rules onto bathroom walls. (“Do not join independent clauses with a comma.” Rule 5.) (I’m serious. Don’t do it.)
A WORKING THEORY OF LOVE BY SCOTT HUTCHINSON
This is a stealth book, a cat burglar of a book. Neil and his bizarre situation (dad reincarnated as a computer, yes, Douglas Coupland territory somehow) crept up on me and became the most important thing on my literary landscape. The more I read, the more I cared. Super-smart, witty, original and the sneaking feeling that this could be you if you lived in Silicon Valley and were between relationships. Read it and find out. — Linda
THREE LOVE POEMS BECAUSE IT’S FEBRUARY
When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
— William Shakespeare
HAVING A COKE WITH YOU
is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles
and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse
it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it
— Frank O’Hara
WORDS, WIDE NIGHT
Somewhere on the other side of this wide night
and the distance between us, I am thinking of you.
The room is turning slowly away from the moon.
This is pleasurable. Or shall I cross that out and say
it is sad? In one of the tenses I singing
an impossible song of desire that you cannot hear.
La lala la. See? I close my eyes and imagine
the dark hills I would have to cross
to reach you. For I am in love with you and this
is what it is like or what it is like in words.
— Carol Ann Duffy
FURTHER LITERARY TIDBITS
F. Scott Fitzgerald on the secret of great writing
Daniel Mendelsohn on literary criticism
Books interview with Francine Prose
Walt Whitman in comic strip
George Saunders: a life in writing
New Yorker fiction podcast: Love by William Maxwell
Sharon Olds on transforming life into art
Rumpus interview with Margaret Atwood
Finding an audience abroad: which American novelists are read France?
Interview with Dave Eggers
THE LAST WORD
“LOVE TAKES OFF THE MASKS WE FEAR WE CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT AND KNOW WE CANNOT LIVE WITHIN”
— James Baldwin