Literary Happenings: Linh Dinh and Matthew Sharpe 10/07/10

8 Oct

 

”]Last night, CityBoy and I met up at the Center for Fiction in Mid-town Manhattan for “Matthew Sharpe & Linh Dinh: A Literary Friendship.” I’m so glad we did. Sharpe and Dinh are both great writers, with an amazing sense of wry humor and an obvious love for language and wordplay. But they’re also great friends and supporters of each other’s work. Sharpe even had notes at the ready to point out passages in Dinh’s new novel, Love Like Hate, that he particularly wanted to talk about. The Center usually videotapes these readings, and they were at it again last night (using the video camera that CityBoy’s been eying like some voracious media whore), so I hope the video somehow makes it onto the Interwebs. I take notes, but I’m not that fast and my handwriting’s become atrocious over the years–I’m a bit hard-pressed to make out all the words in my chicken scribble.

 

* * * *

Here’s the first sentence from Sharpe’s new novel, You Were Wrong:

“At twenty-six, Karl Floor had had a hard life: father dead, mother dead, stepdad sick and mean, siblings none, friends none, foes so offhanded in their molestations that they did not make a crisp enough focal point for his energies.”

I love a good “molestations.” And he’s an excellent reader of his own work (you’d be surprised at how bad others are), slow enough so you can actually follow and appreciate his complex sentences, with a tremendous sense of comic timing.

And here’s a bit from what Dinh read us last night (Kim Lan’s father on his wife):

“It also irritated him to no end that she could never tell cheese from butter. The only cheese she had ever tried was Laughing Cow, which she always enjoyed with a banana. The sight of his wife holding a banana in one hand, a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese in the other, chewing happily, always made him seethe. I’m married to a monkey, he’d think.”

* * * *

Some things from their conversation that struck me:

– Sharpe on why he writes fiction: “I’m so consoled by novels.”

– And on his lusher, more Jamesian sentences: “I want to get as close to breaking the language…”

– And on why reading novels is hard work, harder than watching a movie: “It’s like going to hear the symphony and being handed a violin.”

I didn’t know anything about Linh Dinh before the reading and he mentioned that he’s a self-taught writer, that he actually trained in art, and he’s currently at work on a photo project that’s fulfilling his “desire to roam.” You can see his amazing stuff here: http://linhdinhphotos.blogspot.com/. He mentioned that he’s been writing more political essays recently, and from these photographs, you can see why. Amazing, gritty, bleakly honest stuff about the hellish handbasket we’re now in.

* * * *

And lastly, a little plug for the Center for Fiction. Not only is it a great, and mostly free, place to hear fiction writers read from their new work (they’re responsible for turning me onto Dylan Landis, Yiyun Li, and Elizabeth Strout, to name a few), but they also offer great discounts on books, especially during event nights. We picked up Dinh’s Love Like Hate and Sharpe’s Jamestown for less than $20. Definitely a place worth checking out.

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