chang-rae lee @ greenlight!

went to my first reading of 2015 tonight!  one of my goals for 2015 is to share more about the events i go to; i have the awesome privilege of being able to hear wonderful, amazing authors read on a pretty regular basis; and sometimes they share really great things that i scrawl down and forget about ... but no more of that!

(these posts will most likely be presented in bullet points and paraphrases.)  (and i thought about making a triptych of chang-rae lee but decided to share a photo of rainy park slope and the delicious lemon chess pie i had today instead.)

chang-rae lee is very gracious and generous in-person, and he's a pleasure to listen to.  he speaks thoughtfully and has a very genteel demeanor, and, when i listen to him (this is the second reading i've gone to of his), i keep thinking, you're so korean!  i don't know how to explain what i mean by that, so i'm not even going to try, but i don't mean it in a bad way, so there's that.

he didn't do a very long reading (he doesn't seem keen on long readings, said that long readings sort of feel stuffy the way museums do on rainy days), and he reads slowly in clipped phrases.  he doesn't seem to enjoy it, to be honest, but that's okay because a shorter reading means more time for q&a!

  • he's more concerned with "how am i going to tell this story?" than "what is this story going to be?"
  • when he started writing on such a full sea and realized that it would be told in the "we," he was unsure about how he would sustain that through the novel.  he didn't want to tell his editor or his wife about the "we," either, and would just describe what happens instead.
  • with the audiobook for on such a full sea, his publisher asked if the reader should be male or female because of the "we."  he said he asked for a more androgynous voice then said that he was not going to attempt that for the reading.
  • "i think i write for the reader i am."  he said you shouldn't just interrogate the writer but also yourself as a reader.
  • with the "we," he was interested in teasing out different tones in the "we" instead of it simply being choral.  like, having it sound more wistful at parts or more moralizing in others or more hopeful in others.
  • the surrendered was less about thinking his way through war and more about feeling his way through it via his characters.  he wanted it to be a more visceral experience, so that's what he was most concerned with when writing.
  • he's working on a pilot for a television series based on on such a full sea.
  • he won't really do sequels (someone asked about a potential sequel to full sea) because, for him, it's not about what happens (which is what sequels do) -- without a totally different reason, he couldn't really get much interest or joy in unspooling a yarn about the same characters, at least not in novel form.  which is why he's been having fun spinning out stories and filling out the full sea world with the television treatment.
  • he highly recommends zia haider rahman's in the light of what we know.
  • he tends to like books that are very odd and tend to be conscious of their own language, where the author is testing out how the prose sounds.
  • on such a full sea started out as a book about factory workers in china, and he even travelled to china.  in the end, though, he didn't want to do just reportage.  he believes that novels should have distinctive worlds, not only in what they are or what they're about but also in how they're presented.  he didn't find those layers in the book about china but was still interested in that factory community.
  • he said that's the funny thing about novels -- you think you're going to write about something but you end up writing about one particular thing within that.
  • "i think novelists are afraid a lot."