Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


Tracy Chevalier

A few months ago, on a tip from my friend Jenny, I bought myself a ticket for one of the Seattle Arts & Lectures events, to hear author Tracy Chevalier.

Last night was the night.

First, I had to tear the house apart to find my ticket, because I'd cleverly put it "somewhere safe." Up to about 2 hours before the event, I still wasn't sure I'd be attending, since I couldn't remember my oh-so-clever safe place. Of course, it was right under my nose the whole time, perfectly safe and with some relief I found it and got myself ready to go out. The 106 runs right past my house and stops in the University Tunnel which literally has an elevator to Benaroya Hall. Couldn't be easier!

I joined several other attendees in a quick meal from Puck's (though, despite the linked review here I wouldn't call $12.00 for a small bowl of soup and a large bowl of simple greens and a bottle of root beer "cheap eats"). I asked some ladies sitting at a large table with a free seat if I could join them as the tables were very crowded, and what fun they were! Middle aged book club friends, they were a riot and seemed to enjoy my company as an "audience". They discussed the unappealing chartreuse color of Puck's walls ("Doesn't that seem a poor choice of color to paint the walls of a restaurant?"), the ongoing social security debate and President Bush's proposed plan to stop incentives for employer contributions to employee health care (neither idea they held in high regard), and another mutual friend's attempts to teach all of them to knit ("Look at this scarf," said one, "Knitted by guess whose virgin hands." "Oh, she tried to teach me to knit socks. Socks! I got one quarter of the way through one sock." "Maybe we should work on them together. A Stitch and bitch!"), their (largely unsuccessful) investments into stocks and bonds, the "secret" Benaroya restrooms. More fun than I expected to have over a bowl of soup with strangers.

Inside the main hall the University Book Store was selling copies of Chevalier's books and I bought a copy of The Lady and the Unicorn, which I'd been looking at in hardcover. I chatted with the girl running the table as she ran my credit card, saying I was pleased to see the book out in paperback (and autographed, no less) and ended up having a nice conversation with her about books and reading and working to support your habit, heh heh. Me chit-chatting with total strangers just doesn't normally happen; twice in one night (and enjoying myself to boot) is unheard of. I was enjoying myself already and hadn't even stepped foot into the lecture itself!

The lecture was interesting, Chevalier opened by sharing some hilarious e-mails she's received from people enraged by her depictions of Vermeer and her audacity in thinking she had the right to use a famous person as a character in a historical novel. She called them the "mad e-mailers" and I laughed with recognition, as they're every bit as bitter and mean and self-important as the roleplayers who write hate mail to game companies. I found myself nodding in recognition and agreement with many of the things she had to say about the blending of fact and fiction in writing, in the perceptions we have of what is "real" and what is "true" and how she uses real people and places to bring the fictional people and events more to life. I also found it interesting that she writes longhand and edits as she goes, about 1000 words a day (about 4 days of work brings her through one scene of a story) because she can type much faster than she can think through what she's putting on paper; writing it out longhand she finds to be the right speed to force her to clarify her thoughts and editing on the page lets her see it all in front of her. That style resonates with me.

Kate missed me while I was out, because I rarely go out on excursions with neither her nor Chris. She'd bet him that I was going to come home from my lecture having had a bad time and wishing I hadn't gone out (oh, a bit of wishful thinking, Miss Kate?). Sadly for her I had a great time, and even though I missed my bus by 2 minutes and had to wait nearly half an hour in the cold to take the alternate, longer, packed with stinky drunks bus home, I was already plotting to do it again before the door had barely closed behind me.


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Anonymous Anonymous Says:

I'm so glad you went and had a good time! As I probably mentioned before, some friends and I had series tickets to Seattle Arts and Lectures for a few years in a row and loved it. Typically, each of us would be a fan of a different one of the writers that season, and then there would be several more writers on the roster that none of us knew much about. We would pick a book by each writer ahead of time, read it, and then chat about it at dinner (there's a decent sushi place on the Harbor Steps) during the hour between the pre-lecture (which I recommend, by the way, and they're free!) and the lecture.

Very often our favorite speakers would be surprises, not necessarily the ones we'd been most looking forward to. Stephen Jay Gould was dull and kind of mumbly, while Edward Albee doled out knock-your-socks-off inspiration telling his life story. I had loved Francine du Plessix Gray's biography of Simone Weil, but she was kind of uninteresting live, while on the other hand, Ursula Le Guin, of whom I'm a halfhearted fan at best, was a fantastic speaker.

We fell out of the habit of going due to too-complicated schedules, but after reading your description of the Tracy Chevalier night, I'm wondering if I can make time next season!



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