Thursday, June 10, 2010

On the orange book (part two)

A quick visit to the archives reveals that I have written about Chris Cleave’s The Other Hand (aka Little Bee if you’re buying the American or Norwegian version) before. However, on that occasion I managed to digress my way through the tale of how I walked through fire to get hold of this book without actually mentioning almost anything about the actual book (other than its prominent orangeness). Let’s see if this post will be any different.

On Wednesday I had breakfast with Chris Cleave. I’m not kidding – I really did. Of course, so did about 20 other people as well, all either working for his Norwegian publisher or some of Oslo’s bookshops. The publishing houses see it within their interest to keep the booksellers happy, and fortunately for us, this means we are frequently invited to various book events. Today that meant an early morning session with coffee, croissants and Chris.

He read a little from his book (which I have of course read, but listening to him made me remember just how much I loved The Other Hand, so I am considering picking up again my, now signed, copy). After the reading, we could ask questions (which I never do, but this time I did – that’s right – it must mean I’m a fan), and he was very enthusiastic all through this session. Many authors appear in these things without being able to disguise that they are doing it because they have to. Mr. Cleave, on the other hand (no pun intended) was very clear that he loved coming here; that he loved talking to us; and he loved that we loved his book.

There was something so genuine about him that even if I hadn’t already read his book I would have wanted to after this meeting, and even if I hadn’t already liked it I would have wanted to make an effort trying.

If I actually do like the book even a little bit better now (hard to believe it is possible), it is not because he was so nice (which he was. VERY nice. Which is good, because judging from the warmth in his books, blog and Twitter updates [yes, he was one of the few people I bothered looking up in my brief Twitteresearch project] he should be a nice person. Which [I am repeating this until I am certain you all have got the message] he was).

The reason meeting this author in person made me like his book even better was that he was extremely reflective and contemplative, while also quite funny (as is his book – I forgot to mention that last time). His thoughts about his own book, his writing process and the larger world issues he addresses through his fiction writing made me realize that the thought process and research behind The Other Hand was very impressive. A part of me wondered if I had read things into this book, and if that was what made it so memorable. Listening to Mr. Cleave made me remember that this was not the case.

Afterwards I asked if he would sign my copy, which he did (a fact you already knew, since I revealed that a few paragraphs up. However, I did not reveal that he also had a custom made handstamp. Fine, I’ll get to that outside of the parenthesis). In addition to signing the book, he stamped it. That’s right – he had brought a custom made handstamp (with a picture of Batman, nonetheless; an important character in the book)! He also wrote a short personal note, like authors will, but unlike some I have met, he acted like he meant it. We chatted a while, like normal people. At least, he was normal. I was fairly star struck, but I managed to say certain sensible things, such as how I thought the war in Nigeria was horrible, and how I found it fascinating and disturbing that oil seems to be a recurring elements in conflicts worldwide (we talked about my thesis. Yes, not even in this situation did I manage to keep it out of the conversation. It’s a parasite I can’t get rid of). Then I said some less sensible things, such as “I totally love your book!” and “I recommended it to a friend in the US!” (I barely managed to avoid telling him about my blog…).

Anyway, the overall experience was VERY inspiring. It made me want to write clever and beautiful and important and funny books, like he does. It made me want to jump on the Twitter wagon again, just so I could follow him (his tweets about the journey to Norway are hilarious, by the way. He claims we are elves, and that he is a hobbit. I always thought the hobbits were the nice ones, so he could have a point). Meeting Chris Cleave made me want to write another blog post about “the orange book” just so I could do the actual book justice this time.

I might have to write a third post to get to that, though…


Linn Carina said...

The man is an excellent tweeter. He actually makes me want to open a Twitter account.
How about you write a review of the book, preferably in Norwegian and before July 1., which I can sign my name under and send in to Bøygen?

Leanne said...

Clearly, booksellers are more respected in Norway than in the US. We get annoyed looks when we want to juggle shifts to go to author talks. :-P I already handsell this book, but now that I have evidence that he is a "good guy" I think I'll do it even more... ;-)

Cruella Collett said...

Linn - gee, that souns like a sweet deal... Though you should be aware that my next attempt probably will be a tale of how I failed to write an actual review the two times I already tried...

Leanne - I don't think my boss would have been thrilled had I asked her for time off to go to this thing. Fortunately it wasn't my shift (also it was waaaaay early in the morning, technically before opening hours. Or wait, when do we open again...? I normally only close, except Saturdays...)

Yay for more handselling of Chris Cleave! Of his books, that is...

M.J. Nicholls said...

Yes, but are you sure he's a nice guy? I think I saw him harming cats at the bus stop.

No, seriously... that was a very cool meeting. Probably one for the memory banks.

Incidentally, I'm off to see Yann Martel do a reading now. I'll report back with gossip.

Cruella Collett said...

Ooo, I'd love to hear/see/smell? (though I draw a strickt line at touch/taste) Yann Martel! His latest haven't got the best reviews, has it? I still think I'd like to read it, though. I remember really liking Life of Pi. (Or was that Life of Brian? Both?)

(I am willing to bet my future Nobel Prize [in any field, though the economics through medicine ones would be pure luck] that Chris Cleave is not the bus-stop-cat-harming-kind)

Clarissa Draper said...

He sounds like an extremely cool person. I would probably act the same if I met some of my favorite authors. Are you on twitter? AM I already following you?


Cruella Collett said...

Clarissa - I am not on Twitter. I briefly made an account to see what all the fuss was about (there is a post about it a few days back if you're interested), and I found that I didn't really have anything to do there (yet). If and when in the future I do sign up for Twitter for real, I will find you and follow you and make you follow me back ;)

Jan Morrison said...

Hi my deario, What a divine experience. And your review makes me want to read the book. I'm so glad you didn't actually tell me ONE THING about it because I hate that in a review. Just that you want to read it again. That is absolutely all I need!
As to Yann Martell, I went to a reading by him here in Nova Scotia. I don't know if it was some weird mood I was in but I did not like it. I think he was not being real at all. Most of the other 400 people seemed gobsmacked though so perhaps it was me. I had just been to see another Canadian writer by the name of Jane Urqhart that was wonderful, warm and witty! He was not - he was cold, intellectual and well puffed-up.
I really really like nice people. The older I get the more I value kindness above all other virtues, kindness and generosity. It sounds like Chris Cleave has that in spades.

Cruella Collett said...

Jan - I don't know what kind of books you like to read, but from the impression I have of you this book would touch you. Let me know if you do decide to read it :)

I was a little disappointed to hear about Mr. Martell, though. Intellectual I couldn't pretend not to admire, but if he was also puffed-up and cold I think his intellectualness would be wasted on me. A shame, because that is not how I envisioned him from his books.

Vatche said...

I've met many writers and know what you're going through, Cruella, with the whole starstruck thing.

I'm also always nervous around the authors I meet, because I've read their words and now they are in front of me. I'm surprised by the fact.

I shake their hands and try to have a normal conversation. These authors are my idols and I look up to them because their words changed my life. They are funny, calm, cool and collected individuals.

One day, I wish to be one of them.

Write on, Cruella!

Cruella Collett said...

Vatche - for most of the other writers I have met, though, this has not been the case (at least not as strong). But Chris Cleave belongs to a very exclusive group of people (it consists of only two) - living authors whose work I would like to copy and publish as my own if I thought I could get away with it. Well, no, I wouldn't want that. But both Chris Cleave and Markus Zusak (which is the other) have written books that lie very close to the type of books I eventually want to write. I'd like to be on the "If you liked 'The Other Hand' and 'The Book Thief', you will like [insert my future title]" list.

Good luck to you (and me) in getting to be one of them! :)

Jan Morrison said...

oh man oh man - I love The Book Thief. The Babes, my circle of gal pals, and I were talking books last night and two of us were raving about The Book Thief. If you put Chris's book on that list, I am for sure going to like it. I'll go order it now!

Cruella Collett said...

Jan - isn't that just a wonderful book? I remember the whole "Death as narrator" thing made me very sceptical, but it was forgotten after page one. I recently bought Zusak's "I am the messenger", but I am a little scared to read it, because my expectations are sky high.

Looking forward to hearing what you think of The Other Hand!

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