Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Signed: The Complete Works of Paul Russell

I met Paul Russell in November of last year.

Being my favourite author, he was top of my list for my September mailing.  I contacted him and he agreed to sign a book for me, I didn't exactly mention I was sending him ALL his books.  I figured he would never come to Toronto.

I sent all his books in a box with some packing tape and about $30 or $40 worth of stamps on it.  My copy of Boys of Life and Sea of Tranquility were both in terrible condition, I thought "I can't get him to sign a book that looks like it's been through the washing machine!" so I bought new copies of these two at the STRAND bookstore in New York City, I managed to find hardcovers. My favourite book of his, The Coming Storm, I only had in paperback. I now have all his books in hardcover except his first, Salt Point, and his last, Navakov, which I don't think was published hardcover.

Anyway, so at the end of September I get an email from Paul saying he's sent my books back and he'll be in Toronto in a couple of months!  Ha!  I wasn't expecting that.

It was a real honour to meet him, he was very charming and down to earth in person.  I also, by sheer coincidence, managed to find a discard hardcover copy of The Coming Storm from the archives and when I met him I bought his new book, The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabakov, which he also signed. I now have two signed copies of The Coming Storm, one in paper and one hardcover, and I bought the ebook.  An embarrassment of riches!

The first book I read of Paul's was The Coming Storm and I loved it.  It was literary but relatable with a great story.  The second book of his I read was Sea of Tranquility, which I also loved to death.  There were sentences in there that made my hair stand on end.

After that I went back and read his first two books, The Salt Point and Boys of Life, and unfortunately I didn't care for either.  I waited what seemed like an eternity for his next book, War Against the Animals.  I did enjoy it but not nearly as much as the first two I read.  It was well written but the story didn't hold me as much.  I was also young then, the book came out in 2003 so I would have been like 23 and maybe not yet at a place where I could relate.  I think I would relate more now and am looking forward to re-reading it.

His new book, The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov, after meeting him I couldn't wait to read the book and tell him all about it.  Now it started off very good, I was enjoying the character's life in Russia and his growing up stories, though I wasn't really glued to the page as his life is very far removed from mine and tales of the upperclass I find tend to be a bit dry.  This was a little dryer than I was expecting but still readable.  As I mentioned above, I met Paul in late November, and once I got to the point in the book where the character moves to Paris, a whole flurry of things happen.  The book went from a simple story about a boy to his whole life and the world in Paris of the time, and loads of new characters.  It was around Christmas, I was very busy and had my mind on other things, and I did not have the ability at that time to keep the characters straight.  I stopped reading on page 245 of a 378 page book as I just wasn't following it anymore.

I will go back and re-read it.  I have never been one previously for having to dig too deep into books but as I get older and more mature, I find I'm willing to put in more work.  I do want to finish it, but all these other books keep jumping up at me, book club books, recommendations from friends, etc.  Hopefully soon.

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