Andrew Sean Greer shared the stage with Andre Dubus III at the Edinburgh Book Festival. I took the opportunity to sneak a few uncosy questions beneath the radar during the event and the following book signing.
This post contains spoilers – Proceed at your peril.
(Scene I: Inside Peppers Theatre. Question from the floor.)
LS: Andre has said that he keeps up to date with the reviews. My question to Andrew – do you keep up with the blogs?
ASG: I do.
LS: Well, I’m LizzySiddal and ….
ASG: (Graciously) Oh Lizzy. Hello! Yes – you’re about to ask me about why I wrote the last 13 pages of my novel, aren’t you?
LS: (has actually forgotten about that, and is very impressed) Yes, that’s right.
ASG: Well, I can’t possibly answer here. I’d be giving too much away.
LS: (Recovering quickly) In that case, I’ll see you outside after the event! In the meantime, I’ll ask something else. There’s been much written in the blogs about Pearlie’s voice, in particular, how inauthentic it is given her circumstances. (Sharp intake of breath from the audience – this is not a cosy fawning question). How do you react to that criticism?
ASG: To be honest, I don’t understand it at all. While it’s true that in the main narrative Pearlie is a black 50’s housewife, she is narrating the story some 20 years later, creating a document of her own mind. This allows her to be elaborate, to display her education. Pearlie is coming to terms with her own story, so the structure of withholding and revelation is quite natural. She hasn’t told this story before and is uncovering links that she probably is seeing for the first time.
ADIII: The makeup of the word re-member is to put back together, to restructure thoughts and ideas. The words don’t need to be as they were spoken. The actions don’t need to be as they were performed. It’s the opposite process of dis-member, to pull apart.
(Appreciative nods from the audience.)
ASG: Good point. That’s my answer too!
(Scene II: The Book Shop – at the front of the signing queue.)
LS: Time to spill the beans regarding those last 13 pages.
ASG: It’s about the pacing. Pearlie’s been questioning her actions in the intervening years and those last pages provide the answer as to whether she did the right thing. I also wanted to show Holland’s perspective.
LS: …. which brings me neatly onto my next question. I was wondering about the love triangle with only two sides ….
ASG: The novel developed that way. I wrote scenes in which Holland was a presence but I removed them all. I decided to save his voice for the last section.
(Queue behind getting impatient now. LS says farewell. ASG meets and greets more fans. Lizzy departs for an unscheduled encounter with the number 44 bus to Balerno …..)