Archive for May, 2012

An Unexpected Guest

Anne Korkeakivi

Anne Korkeakivi is an American writer currently living in Switzerland, with previous stints in France and Finland. Her short fiction has appeared in several venues including The Atlantic and The Yale Review and she’s spent many years as a freelance journalist with articles in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Times, just to name a few.

Her first novel, An Unexpected Guest, was published in April of this year and is garnering much praise. I’ve had the pleasure of reading this fine debut (devoured it, really!) and am delighted Anne took the time to answer a few questions for me in advance of her Paris reading at WH Smith this Thursday, May 31.

I think many readers will enjoy this page-turner as it’s set in Paris, features a taut, well-paced plot, and raises questions of how we reconcile past and present, private and public in a fraught global climate.

The entire present action of your novel takes place in less than 24 hours. This compressed time frame lends a delicious tension to the book. How did you come up with the idea for this book? Were you influenced by Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway which also uses the organization of a single night’s dinner party to plumb deeper waters?

The idea for An Unexpected Guest came to me while on a visit to Paris in the mid-2000s. I was walking down the Rue de Varenne thinking over the day’s headlines, which were rife with worries over terrorism and with political scandals, and I thought: what would happen if the spouse of one of these politicians was caught out with a terrible secret? At some point early on, I recognized the similarity between the story forming in my head and how, in Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf managed to talk so profoundly about post-WWI malaise while writing about something as seemingly commonplace as putting on a dinner party.

So, yes, I felt privileged to be able to pay homage to that. Virginia Woolf was a genius. But, when it comes down to it, the twenty-four hour timeline is really handy. As you say, it abets the tension, and it also gave me a clear structure within which to work. And, very importantly, it supports the suggestion that every day can be a microcosm of either every day before it or every day after. The book talks a lot about making choices.

The protagonist, Clare, has mastered the art of maintaining appearances after 20 years of marriage to a high-ranking diplomat but has been haunted by a secret the entire time. William Faulkner famously said that good writing features “the human heart in conflict with itself” and I think you apply that here with Clare’s troubled consciousness. Can you talk about what you hoped to achieve though the character of Clare?

Continue reading ‘An Unexpected Guest’


Best Proposal Ever!

I just couldn’t resist posting this proposal. It made me so happy! (And cry tears of joy).

Have a great weekend and enjoy!

Allo Allo (A Rock ‘n Roll Paris)

Enough slow, elegant, black and white montages of Paris for the moment.

I’m still after adrenaline. I want to be shook up. Give me some rock and roll.

Well, voila! A quick cut Paris.


Walk and Invent Your Life (Portes Ouvertes)

I saw this yesterday and thought, yes!

Walk and invent your life.

As it happened, that’s exactly what I was out doing.

I mentioned to you that my last trip home threw up a whole bunch of questions. I’m feeling my way and trying to figure out (yet again) just what the heck I’m doing with this “one wild and precious life” (Mary Oliver shout-out!)

Nope, I don’t have the answers yet (whoa, that would have been lightning fast!), but what I did say was that I was committing to making my life in Paris count, that I’d try to hold onto my newly refreshed New York sense of self here in the City of Light.

Part of that is just keeping my eyes (and ears and heart) open and finding inspiration wherever it may exist.

This week I haven’t had to look far. I’ve literally stumbled right into inspiration. On Monday I saw Deborah Levy speak at Shakespeare & Co. One word: Amazing. I have a new writer crush.

Then yesterday I saw a documentary film made by someone I hadn’t seen in a very long time. On the way home, I saw a small group of 4 people looking down at green pamphlets and looking questioningly at a door. Then they went in.

On the spur of the moment, I followed.

Turns out it was a “portes ouvertes” in my neighborhood. This is always one of my favorite events, and even better when discovered serendipitously. 56 artists in the ‘hood were opening their doors to their studios and showcasing their work.

Continue reading ‘Walk and Invent Your Life (Portes Ouvertes)’

Bye Bye Sarkozy; Hello Hollande

Well, if I’ve been complaining that I feel a certain lack of energy in France, a close presidential election serves at least as temporary cure.

Rue de la Roquette on Election Night

Tonight the French elected Socialist candidate Francois Hollande to the presidency, ousting incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy.

Crowds congregated in celebration across the country; I headed to Bastille where the mood was boisterous.

At one point I was nearly crushed against a wall as a pack of people surged against me. Well, I wanted excitement, didn’t I?

I ducked into a bistro for a brief reprieve

Continue reading ‘Bye Bye Sarkozy; Hello Hollande’

There and Back with a Bang!

Sunny Central Park and Jumping Girl with Umbrella

Paris! I’ve returned!

Yes, after a month’s sojourn Stateside I’m back in the City of Light.

But just what was I doing away for so long?

Well, falling back in love with my American home, to be honest.

Late Night Mexican Street Food on the Lower East Side

The trip stirred up a lot of feelings for me. Just when I thought I was settled (and incredibly satisfied!) in Paris, New York had to go and work her old charm on me.

Oh, this. THIS.

That was my reaction as soon as I stepped back into the city. I was flooded with my overwhelming love for the place: the energy, diversity, the possibilities just teeming in the streets.

Never thought a bagpipe could be a viable “jam” instrument, but I was proven wrong in Union Square. I have video, too!

Continue reading ‘There and Back with a Bang!’

paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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