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Francophonie

Our moment of spring here in New York is coming to an end as I write, with temperatures dropping and rain predicted to turn into snow. Happily, there's the extra daylight.

When I stopped in at McNally Robinson last Friday, to buy novels by Turgenev on a whim, I picked up a schedule of the bookshop's coming events. My heart sank when I saw that they'd be presenting their first francophone event ever on Tuesday (two nights ago), an evening for which I had grand tickets to hear the Russian National Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall. Even though I didn't know the first thing about any of the Quebecois writers who would be reading from their work, I thought I really ought to go, and so did Kathleen and Fossil Darling and Ms NOLA.* Getting rid of the tickets was a pain; I ended up handing them over to a young German couple on the 6 train. I hope that they realized that, if they were going to use them - the woman seemed very eager, the man not so much - they'd have to find a train heading in the opposite direction.

McNally Robinson was fairly overflowing with people interested in participating in a francophone event.** I would find out afterwards that lots of those one hand were francophone only to the degree that I am - very roughly, in other words. I will write about the readers and their books as I get to them - the books, that is. For the moment, I can say that I'd had a lubricating Manhattan before heading downtown, and my comparable disinhibition meant that I jumped right in speaking French, however badly. I also joined in a conversation that several guests were having with the extremely affable Quebecois cultural attaché, M Jean-Pierre Dion.

Did the evening mark a change in my life? Since Ms NOLA began supplying me, about two years ago, with interesting dates around town, I've been to more book events, mostly by myself, than in all the prior years of my existence. But this time, I gave up a very good concert in order to do so. I was very torn about the decision, and still regret not hearing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto the Prokofiev Fifth - not to mention my favorite Stravinsky, the Scherzo Fantasque. Next to that familiar, beloved music, the reading at McNally Robinson was new and different, and far more demanding. But that's just it. It didn't have to be more demanding. I could have just sat there. But I was determined to interact. This determination to interact isn't exactly new anymore. But it didn't trump a concert until Tuesday.

* NB: Had Kathleen been able to go to the concert - and we knew by the weekend that she wouldn't be - the dilemma would never have arisen.

** All three books were promoted in English translation; only one was also available in the original.

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