Oh, that was fun. After being held up for a few months because of that volcano, Alexander McCall Smith spoke tonight at the Boston Public Library. He was thoughtful, and a little philosophical, but mostly he was so funny, he was cracking himself up. You have to love a man who laughs, with pure joy, at his own jokes.
He told us that many people complain because he isn't a woman, and so he asked 'would it help if I wore a skirt?' He also told us that the reason that so many of his main characters are women is that women's conversations are more interesting than men's. He asked people in book groups to please not be unkind to authors, because many, many books are written by authors suffering from gallstones. He said that he originally intended that Isabel and Jamie's relationship would just be a friendship, not an affair, because 'these books are set in Edinburgh, where we don't go in for that sort of thing.' And he told us he suffers from a condition called 'serial novelism.' There is no known cure; 'you just write serial novels and then you die.'
And then, 35 minutes or so into his 40-minute talk, he told us that the title of his lecture was 'The Very Small Things of Life.' He felt that you can, as a writer, say very profound things about what it means to be human by talking about very simple things, like drinking tea. That without knowing it, he was trying to say something about a sense of place; and that while the problems his characters face tend to be small ones, and nothing much happens in his books, 'there's enough happening in the world today with authors making it worse.'
If you enjoy his books, as I do, don't miss a chance to hear him speak (that is, if you don't mind laughing for an hour and then smiling foolishly all the way home). I'm lucky enough to live in a very literary and literate place, with (among other things), a full calendar of readings and talks by authors. I don't take advantage of this enough, and I'm going to work on that.
. . . . . . . . . . .