Yes, this post is a week late, I apologize, but things at work and with my personal life have been a bit overwhelming lately, and needed much of my time. But I’m back from the hiatus now and starting off with the recap of Hanya Yanagihara’s book signing last November 9 at De La Salle University.
I went to the event, along with my friends and had so much fun I was only about a quarter of the way in reading A Little Life and haven’t even read her other book. But nonetheless, she was very friendly and very approachable. The event also had a discussion of her two books: A Little Life and The People in the Trees, with questions coming from the Literature Department in DLSU, as well as some questions from the audience.
Here are some interesting things I’ve picked up from the interview.
- She doesn’t read her reviews.
- A Little Life has been optioned (not yet sold though) as a TV series and if it gets sold, Hanya will be one of the executive producers.
- Among all the characters in A Little Life, she relates to JB the most.
- Her first book The People in the Trees, is based on a real-life story about a doctor named Carleton Gajdusek who won the nobel for medicine in the 70’s. He had such an outlandish life, that Hanya knew I wanted to say something about him, and only fiction could do that.
- For A Little Life, she had the characters and the story in mind, for probably years, and then came the plot.
- So much of who Jude was, is based in his history, and so it was more of trying to figure out the right framework to write his story in. It was trying to tell the reader who the character was, by populating the world around him.
- In writing The People in the Trees, Hanya had to do a crash course on trying to learn basics on microbiology, virology, indianology, and medical anthropology.
- “It’s always the most outlandish detail in the novel that is true, the hardest things to write, in a way, is the stuff that actually happens because it’s always the stuff that’s least believable”
- Gajdusek’s life story was interesting to Hanya because it asks so many good questions about colonialism, about what it means to be a great artist VS a bad man and whether we could separate the two. It was a story of ideas.
- The setting of A Little Life is set in New York, yet in a more personal way. Most of it takes place indoors. The cityscape plays a little role in this book, but the demands of the city plays a very large part in how the characters identify themselves and how they strive to attain success
- There are no definite years in A Little Life, so time is marked by an intimate personal calendar, and holidays that have emotional resonance particularly for Americans.
- She wanted the reader to witness not only the big moments in the lives of the characters in A Little Life, but also the every day mundane moments. She wanted to make the reader to feel that they were so intimately involved with the characters that they were getting the boring details as well as the non-boring ones.
- A Little Life offers an alternative view on adulthood, an adulthood not marked by marriage, children or by conventual living situations. It argues that adulthood is whatever you choose to make it – that it’s defined more by the moral choices you make about your fellow human beings and less about the trackings of taxes, marriages, legal arrangements. It’s about growing up and the dynamic of it, and how our expectations change and how we know less and less as we get older.
- A big inspiration for The People in the Trees was The Tempest.
- “A fiction writer is always more honest on the page than she is in real life.”
- One of the questions she hoped The People in the Trees asks, is that when do we use cultural relativity for our own ends, and how dangerous is that? Not just about what cultural relativity is, but also the abuse of it
- The People in the Trees shows us the trickery of biography and how we try to rewrite history, but also about the way that modern science is written – how what we see as accepted findings in science is often a collection of people answering and responding to a person’s first discoveries or observations.
- When asked why Jude had to go through an extremity of violence in his life, she sai that the point of fiction is to ask what is it to be human, and the answer is as many different people in the world. Some lives are violent lives. They are beset, marked and defined by violence. And given the conveniences of the modern word, we are able to see violence, as well as have the ability to tune it out.
- A Little Life confronts us with the reality of a person’s violence in a way we are not used to seeing in fiction. And anyone who says a life like his doesn’t exist are either not looking, not paying attention or willfully shutting their eyes.
- She chose to let Jude die towards the end, because the book ends honestly, in the only way it could.
And more photos with my amazing book friends cause why not, it was a fun event.
The event turned out to be everything I dreamed of and more! Thank you, Fully Booked and De La Salle University Literature Department. I hope they bring more authors here too.