On Friday night I was given the opportunity to read at the wonderful Librairie Charybe, a bookstore not far from Gare de Lyon in Paris. Owned by Hugues Robert, Charybe presents its readers with a carefully-chosen selection of French books – it’s intimate and inviting. For this event, I read selections in English and Hugues read them in French. I was fortunate enough to have Théophile Sersiron there to help translate my answers to questions, and to take part in an impromptu bluegrass jam!
Last night’s event at Librairie Obliques in Auxerre was nothing short of a gift from beginning to end. I took the train from Gare de Bercy in Paris yesterday afternoon, and I was met at Auxerre St. Gervais by Grégoire Courtois, owner of the bookstore. Before the reading, I had a chance to walk through town – down Quai de la Marine, past the L’Yonne River and some wonderful medieval architecture and up the hill to the bookstore.
Librairie Obliques is a wonderful store, and one which clearly fosters a community of readers – every seat was full. This was my first event in France, and the format was different than I was used to: Rather than a straight reading, it was a Q & A between myself, my translator Andy Walken, Grégoire and Benoît Virot. Afterwards, I was asked to play a short tune on banjo and to sign some books.
I’ll head back to Paris this afternoon, as Festival America begins tonight. Even though my time in Auxerre was short, I’m so thankful to have had a chance to see this beautiful town.
With some free time yesterday afternoon, I walked down Boulevard Henri IV, crossed over La Seine, and followed Quai de la Tournelle over to Shakespeare & Company. While this store isn’t the famous Modernist haunt owned by Sylvia Beach until 1940, George Whitman’s store at at 37 rue de la Bûcherie is a bustling literary hub that celebrates the original store and maintains an important legacy of its own. I was honored to stop in, see my book on the shelves, and be asked to sign some copies. Then I sat and read in the Square René Viviani, walked across the street to the Notre Dame de Paris, and made my way back towards Place De La Bastille.
My first day in Paris was fantastic in many ways, but the entire day was underscored by the kindness and generosity of Le Nouvel Attila. They’ve arranged for me to stay in a hotel not far from Place de Bastille (pictured to the right), a delightful neighborhood filled with cafes, bookstores and music stores. I took a long walk yesterday afternoon and then met Benoît Virot, Publisher of Le Nouvel Attila, for a late dinner at Chez Paul.
Over dinner, Benoît presented me with a copy of Comment Élever Votre Volkswagen. It was the first time that I’d seen the book in person, and I was stunned by the physical object – the design of the book is striking, the illustrations even more beautiful than the digital images I’d seen online.
I tried my best to convey my appreciation to Benoît for everything – for taking such care with the production of the novel, and for selecting me as the first American writer that Le Nouvel Attila has ever brought to France.
Next week, I’ll travel to Paris for Festival America 2014 – a three-day celebration of American literature in Vincennes. I’m absolutely thrilled to be participating; the festival features more than sixty writers, including Margaret Atwood, Wally Lamb, Donald Ray Pollock, Adelle Waldman and Richard Ford. I’ll fly over early for an event in Auxerre, and my father will join me in Paris for the three-day festival itself. I’m really grateful for this opportunity – my thanks to the Festival America Team for this invitation, and to Benoît Virot, Le Nouvel Attila and Théophile Sersiron for their support of my work.
I’ll be posting updates and photos as often as I can, so please check back!
It’s been great to see such thoughtful, complimentary responses to Comment élever votre Volkswagen – especially those at Un Dernier Livre Avant La Fin Du Monde, the blog Charybde 2, Lazare Bruyant’s amazing review at Fric-Frac Club, and Benjamin Berton’s flattering review in Premiere Magazine.
I’m grateful, too, for the continued support for the book. Just yesterday, Le nouvel Attila announced that they’d post translations of write-ups from my 2011 playlist for Largehearted Boy to Facebook on a weekly basis. The first one, my notes on Rusty Belle’s “Rearview Mirror Sunrise,” appears today. I also discuss music in my recent interview with Lazare Bruyant, which appeared this morning on Fric-Frac Club.
Finally, here are some pictures from the window of the Paris bookstore Le Comptoir Des Mots, originally posted on Facebook by Philippe Guazzo II.
Today’s the day – Comment élever votre Volkswagen is now available in France! The French edition has received some good buzz, and Le Nouvel Attila has planned several events to celebrate and promote it. My thanks to Théophile Sersiron, Matthias Lehmann, Benoît Virot, and everyone at Le Nouvel Attila for devoting so much time and energy to my book.