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…