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April 23, 2008

Listenings

Tonight my friend Jennie and I had the great pleasure of going to see Jhumpa Lahiri at Harbourfront reading from her new book The Unaccustomed Earth (recently read). It was a great event, fascinating to see these masterful stories are made by such a young and slightly nervous person– for me, they’re a bit richer for that, of this earth. She was a wonderful reader, reading from her story “Hell/Heaven”, and having heard it in her voice, I do want to go back and read it again.

I’ve written before about my feelings towards readings– that I’ve long found it difficult just to listen, and they force me to use un-exercised muscles. Though being bad at listening is certainly no desirable trait, and I always striving to become better at this, and some readers and some stories definitely make it easy. Of course it’s not all about self-improvement– I do enjoy readings. I like the idea of bookish gatherings, and they do make me feel better about the world in general– a whole room full of people who’ve shown up to be read to. It all can’t be so bad after all…

I haven’t mentioned yet that Michael Ondaatje was also reading tonight. I mightn’t have mentioned at all– I was there for Lahiri. But his reading was stunning. I’ve read Divisidero and found it not unsatisfying but baffling, and all the baffling stuff ceased to matter tonight when I heard the story in his voice. Perhaps his stories are meant to be told more than read, where they are just dissected, may fall apart, his images failing to withstand much scrutiny. But it was such a marked difference when I was listening, the kind of difference I’ve never really experienced at a reading. When I couldn’t perform dissections, refering to previous paragraphs, underlining points and pencilling question marks. Instead it was forward momentum, unstoppable, and I could only go along for the ride. The niggly problems didn’t stand out then, the bits and pieces, but they culminated into something larger, washing over me to cast a spell under which the story was perfectly reasonable. His last line took my breath away, and I don’t even mean it figuratively.

One thought on “Listenings”

  1. K says:

    Envy is me! I found out about this event today and was bummed to have been so ill-informed about it happening. Glad you made it out to support J. Lahiri.

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