Two answers and a question..

One of the many things I like about being here in NYC is the amount of readings that are on. And that they’re all free.

There’s pretty much someone reading somewhere every night of the week and this week I’ve seen two, AL Kennedy and Jonathan Franzen.

AL Kennedy’s reading was on Monday – Labour Day – and she got a pretty decent turnout. Turns out she does stand up comedy too which I didn’t know, but then again, not having read her before there’s a lot I don’t know about her. She was very witty and self deprecating – not sure the audience got all her jokes – and read from a work in progress novel about two people falling in love which already seems doomed for disaster. Afterwards she spent a lot of time answering questions in a sort of roundabout way. The only one she answered with any level of certainty was mine, when I asked if writing novels became easier or harder. “Harder,” she said. “Definitely.”

Last night, I went to see Jonathan Franzen who is very much the man of the moment over here, appearing on the cover of Time magazine and being touted as the greatest American novelist of all time. Not surprisingly, Barnes and Noble on Union Square was packed. I arrived 50 minutes early and got a seat about 20 rows from the front, by the time he came on there must’ve been 500 people there, many of them standing. Seems there’s been some hoo-haa over here about chick lit with some female writers claiming that only white, male writers living in Brooklyn receive this kind of media attention over here. Not being from here I don’t know how valid this is but they probably have a point. When JF was asked for his view, he was pretty quiet about it, only pointing out he doesn’t, and never has, lived in Brooklyn.

He read from his latest novel, “Freedom”, nine years in the making and, it seems, worth the wait. I wasn’t the biggest fan of “The Corrections” in the world but last night his 38 minute reading seemed to fly by and I held onto every word. At the end someone asked him if he could write a book a year. “No,” he said. “Next question” and that was that.

So now I have a question. If writing novels gets harder and the reputed greatest American novelist of our time takes nine years to do it, then why the heck are the rest of us expected to do it in 12 months? And how many better books would there be out there if we were all given more time?

Time to go for a late lunch and muse over that rhetorical question. And to my editor, if you’re reading, don’t worry, that second novel is coming on fine. Just fine…!