Friday, July 16, 2010

By Fire, By Water III

Luke Ford writes:

I just finished reading this terrific new novel by Mitchell James Kaplan.

We talk by phone today.

Mitchell: “I wanted to be a writer.

“I went to France after college. I was living with a very powerful family, very much at the top of French industry and government. I lived in their slave’s quarters at the top of the building. It was a five-floor typical French apartment building. I lived at the top in the garret. My sinecure consisted of having breakfast with the kids and speaking English with them. They spoke English fluently. They had a chauffeur and a maid and everything else. They just wanted them to stay in practice. Each year they hired a Yale graduate and a Harvard graduate, not snobs or anything, and one of them had breakfast with the kids and one of them had lunch.

“I spent most of my time reading and trying to write a novel.

“There was a man I knew in college, I guess I’d call him a mentor, his name was William Styron. An author. He had been very kind to me and very interested in my ambitions when I was in college.

“One day I saw that William Styron was going to be on a book discussion program on French TV. I went to the studio and pretended that I belonged there. I walked right into the television studio with my briefcase and in it I had the manuscript of this book I had been typing. I sat through the show and watched him discuss Sophie’s Choice."

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