At the Cape Town book fair

L and I spent a few hours at the Cape Town book fair yesterday and managed to hear author Jodi Picoult howling like a wolf with her son Jake (in addition to talking about her novels). She was down-to-earth, enthusiastic and quite refreshing in her approach to writing. I’ve not yet read one of her novels but I enjoyed watching My Sister’s Keeper. It was interesting to hear her account of trying to have a discussion with the director about why they changed the ending. Apparently he basically hung up on her and then refused to speak to her on the set when she tried to speak to him about it there. (Needless to say, he won’t be directing any more movies based on one of her novels.)

When I first heard about these issue-based novels of hers, I though the idea was suspect. Doesn’t it just sound a little contrived to choose a whole bunch of contentious issues and base your novels on them? Well it did to me. But I liked the way that she explained that. From what I can remember of the discussion it had to do with being a mother and wondering about all the things that can go wrong with your child and then exploring those things from the inside out. I also liked her comment that you can edit a bad page but you can’t edit a blank one. Having three kids of her own, she found that she had to squash her writing into any time available. Sounds pretty exhausting.

But getting back to the novels and the discussion (she was in conversation with the SA editor of O magazine, Samantha Paige), the best part for me was hearing her account of the novel she is writing at the moment (which is due out in 2011). It’s called Sing you home and it’s about gay adoption. Well that’s one of the issues. The book will be accompanied by a CD with each song title being the title of a chapter (with Picoult herself writing the lyrics). How’s that for self-belief? I’m almost a little surprised that she didn’t write and perform the music herself. But she makes an excellent point in saying that once you’ve heard someone’s story and heard them expressing their emotions in a heartfelt way, it’s much more difficult to judge them. And of course when you’re dealing with a subject like gay adoption (and related fertility issues) then the religious right has a lot to say about that.

We also wandered around looking at the various stalls and L bought a kid’s book for her niece (Abby’s Aquarium) and I got pressured into buying a book on children’s health in South Africa. I already have a pile of books to take to Darfur (more on this next time) so I wasn’t tempted to buy anything else. But it was great to see so many new titles and to see the crowds that always turn out for these events. Of course I’m not really a fan of crowds but at least there were no vuvuzelas! And the bar-one ice-cream was excellent.

I’m happy to report that I’m feeling a lot better about my upcoming trip to Darfur. I’m still heading off in early September and I’m not sure when exactly I’ll be coming back (hopefully the end of November) but I’m far more relaxed about it. I didn’t make one call about it in the past week or so and I’ll start worrying again about the slow process of my passport and visa applications from tomorrow.

I’m also still not ready to tell you about my and L’s news just yet. That will have to wait for another few weeks. But things are looking good and we had our respective parents over for brunch on Sunday. L cooked up some delicious muesli and I even tried to make some marmite biscuits (since L likes marmite). It was only after I’d put them in the oven that I realised that I was supposed to add two egg yolks to the flour / butter mixture and so the biscuits were more blobs than anything else. And quite rich considering the amount of butter that went in there. I still had fun making them though. And no, that was not what we served the parents. We gave them some yummy fruit salad with yoghurt and muesli; croissants with jam and cheese; eggs, bacon and sausage and some coffee to finish off. The parents got on extremely well and L’s parents have already been invited for lunch at Betty’s.

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9 Responses to At the Cape Town book fair

  1. litlove says:

    Jodi Picoult sounds like such an interesting woman. I’ve tended to avoid her novels for the same reasons as you – that issue based stuff seeming contrived. But I really like her explanation for it – makes perfect sense. You DO spend way too much time as a mother imagining the worst case scenarios.

  2. doctordi says:

    Ditto Jodi Picoult, although someone in my now-defunct book club chose one of hers one month, so I read it… but for the life of me I can’t seem to remember the name of it. Hang on, I’ll search…Nineteen Minutes. I was pleasantly surprised by it, for some reason I was expecting it to be trashy but it’s not.

    Brunch sounds great, as does your newly positive attitude about Darfur – and I’m a Vegemite girl who’s curious about those Marmite cookies…

    • Pete says:

      Pretty easy if you remember the egg. Butter, flour, knead them into little balls, add the egg, bake for 12 mins at 200 and then you sandwich the marmite in-between. Not too bad.

      As for Picoult, I’m interested to read her book on Autism (House Rules) but not sure I’ll ever get round to it with the current backlog.

  3. natalian says:

    She was here on the East Coast last night. My mom went to listen her at a book signing but I have avoided reading Jodi Picoult due to the content she explores in her books too. Just “not my cup of tea”. Glad you are settled about your Dafur trip, as for hosting the “dual family” get together… big step! 😉

    • Pete says:

      I know. All the anxiety about whether the parents will get along and they got on fine. As for Darfur, have almost forgotten about it. Denial I guess.

  4. I’m amazed by how prolific Picoult is. She comes out with one of these issue based novels every year or so. I just don’t know how she does it. The research alone would take me a couple of years. I’m glad to hear you’re feeling calmer about your posting. And will wait for your news.

  5. Gra says:

    I haven’t read anything by Jodi Picoult. Did I read something about someone comparing her with Willa Cather? I can’t remember. I’m probably way off. Marmite? Um…isn’t that a bit like Bovril? My landlady used to give me Bovril in Ireland when I was sick. After tasting it once I swore I’d never let myself get sick again. Maybe that’s why it works. I would dread sneezing for fear she’d go grab it from the cupboard and chase me down.

  6. rapidblue says:

    Read quite a few of Picoult’s novels now – (busy with my 6th one to be exact). Absolutely love the “content she explores” – her books feel so real!! Went to her appearance in Melrose Arch – pretty amazing lady 🙂

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