I am not an émigré, not yet; but I’m preparing to become one by modeling myself after my literary hero, the Anglo-Canadian writer Mavis Gallant, who arrived in Paris more than 60 years ago already speaking exquisite French. The problem is, I see myself ending up like the unfortunate displaced people who inhabit her fiction: adrift, irrelevant, subject to ridicule, alone. Unless, of course, I can finally shed what’s left of my foreign accent.
By three a.m., the seven of us had drunk a case of champagne, plus two additional bottles, followed by whiskey digestifs for the men. ‘They do this all the time,’ Pierre’s wife Chloe whispered to me in English at one point—dismissively, but without malice. As if to say, sure, Pierre’s relatives were lushes, but perhaps this was how life should be, inévitablement.
As some of you may have heard, a handful of pioneering companies are trying to use flying robots in place of cars for deliveries. In the Bay Area, the geniuses behind Tacocopter are blazing a new path for restaurants, while in France, the postal service in Auvergne is working on a system for newspapers. (Fingers crossed that somebody will try this with lit mags.)
Most literary novelists feel relatively confident they can sell copies of their newly published book to their parents, probably to their siblings, maybe (if they haven’t sparred too often over loud music or lawnmowers or leaf blowers) to their neighbors. Their local bookstore, if they still have one, is likely to agree to carry the book too and may even put a copy in the shop window or on a central table.
With a review or two in a local paper, these same writers may also experience the disconcerting ecstasy of seeing their book in the palms of a stranger sitting across from them on a bus or subway. With a few reviews in a national publication or by powerful bloggers and Twitter pundits, he or she may receive SMS’d pics from friends who have seen it in bookstores in other U.S. towns and cities.
But how about beyond the fruited plain? Whose work gets read outside of America?