Saturday, June 10, 2006

France recap

Home again--where I've been in a jet-lagged coma for a couple of days. But I think my eyes are open enough this morning to write at least a little bit about my trip.

So here goes another gushy post. France. Was. Awesome.

For those who don't know me: I'm a bit of a homebody. It wasn't until a few years ago that I began to travel within the U.S., and prior to last week, the farthest I'd ever gotten from American soil was about ten yards out in the Atlantic. I've waved across a Great Lake at Canada, but that's about it for my worldliness.

So it was with more than a little irrational fear that I boarded the plane for Paris (fresh off watching my friends Mike and Katie married, which certainly helped--and congrats again to those two, who are inspiring). I speak absolutely no French, and prior to this trip I had great difficulty even pronouncing anything in that language.

My fears, of course, were unfounded. Thanks in no small part to all the good people at Albin Michel, and to my fellow writers on tour, but mostly thanks to the very kind and patient folks I met all over France, I had no difficulty at all. In nine days I was transformed from a homebody to a devoted Francophile. I want to learn the language, I want to visit again. And in fact Steph and I might do so next summer.

A bare bones summary: I met up with the other writers and my editor, Francis Geffard, in Toulouse, and from there we circled the country: we hit Montpellier, Lyon and Vienne, Lille, Paris, and then Saint-Malo. (I loved them all, but have a particular fondness for Vienne, the smallest city on the tour--it felt very home-y, and has a wonderful bookstore and readers who gave us our warmest reception of the week.) Louise Erdrich couldn't make the trip, unfortunately, but that meant a lot of very funny, testosterone-heavy bonding with Mssrs. Udall, Chaon, Reid, Treuer, and Doerr. I couldn't have asked for a better gang of fellow travellers, some of whom are old hands at the tour de France.

I didn't have as much time in Paris as the others, but Francis made sure I got to see the sights. I stood under the Eiffel Tower at midnight, and saw Notre Dame, etc. A magnificent city, Paris--but no one needs this blog to confirm that. Still, I was awed by the sheer weight of history over there. I live in a city where "old" means 1870. The bookshop in Vienne looks out onto the pillars of Roman ruins.

But the best part of the trip, hands-down, was meeting French readers, writers, and book people. David Treuer said it simply and best: The French are the best readers in the world. It's true. They read a lot, and they care a lot. I met a man named Christian, for instance, who drove two hours to Vienne to meet me, because he loved my book, and was moved by it. I was, and still am, deeply humbled by the chance to shake his hand.

A country that loves to eat and drink coffee and read--why wouldn't I fall in love?

That's all for now. A big thank-you to Francis and the good people at Albin Michel (and a shout-out to my translator, Michel Lederer, who's obviously doing something right), and of course to Dan, Tony, Elwood, Brady, and David--you guys rock.


Anonymous said...

With so many countries publishing your novel-will there be a world tour?

Christopher Coake said...

That depends upon readers worldwide--anywhere I sell a lot of copies, publishers might be tempted to have me make appearances. But it's a big investment to bring me overseas, so I'm not expecting anything soon. And that investment makes me especially grateful to Albin Michel for letting me meet my French readers...