Isabel Allende came to Nashville with a rainstorm forecast and a little under the weather herself. Thanks to that tiny physical inconvenience there were no hugs, no pictures with the author and the book signing was restricted to swift pen strokes. Nevertheless, these things didn’t tarnish the event because Isabel Allende’s charisma is a force of nature.
Let me tell you a bit of why I love Isabel Allende so much, before I enter into the presentation at the Nashville Public Library. There are two very special instances in my life where her books have played an interesting role. The first involves her amazing Paula, which I lend to the boyfriend of my ex-boyfriend (yeah, complicated or very French, you decide), and six months after their separation he used it to reappear in my life and stay in it for five wonderful years until our innate machismo got the best of us. Chinese Zodiac Warning: Monkeys and Roosters --good friends, bad lovers.
The second came when I decided to move to the United States with the blessing of the gods and the disappointment of my family. As I distributed my books among my friends I couldn’t part with Eva Luna; becoming thus, the only book I brought from my homeland. Why this particular book? Well, Eva tells stories, and I see some of her in myself, hence its expatriation. I think I should better say its migration from the oppressive heat of the tropics, where there is only rain and sun to the land of four seasons in the middle of the Bible Belt. (Eva rolls her eyes.)
So the adventure began with hubby leaving me in front of the Nashville Public Library (NPL), under an impertinent drizzle, and disappearing in search of a Mother’s Day gift. No better place than downtown to get Mamma a spiffing present. Like a lost child in a crowded mall, I wandered looking for a clue, until I found sort of a line of people waiting. Decent people usually wait in line to enter places, so I calculated that might be the right spot. I asked the fellow readers at the end if that was the line to see Isabel, and a sweet lady with a bright smile asked if I had a ticket. The event was free but tickets were required to have a seat at the auditorium. When I said “No,” she said, “Here you go,” and gave me a printed page with a golden ticket. Hold on, that was for the chocolate factory. Wrong channel, I mean story.
Astonished and grateful, I introduced myself. Her name is Lee Ann and her friend’s, Jason. Surprisingly, that was the line for people who didn’t have tickets and were waiting to see if any empty space was available after the ticket-bearers were seated. Since Lee Ann, Jason and I had paper keys to the kingdom, we surreptitiously moved toward the Pearly Gates, doing an strategic stop to say hello to Susan (I’m bad with names I hope I’m not giving her the wrong one), who is the fabulous Social Media Attaché of NPL and, in a fantastic twist of the net, had favorited my tweet regarding my enthusiasm about Isabel’s visit to Nashville. And with that magnificent augury we found our places on the red velvet seats of the auditorium. Lee Ann and Jason were expecting two more friends: Ellen and Bo. Soon, our little band of Allendians was complete.
A blond lady with long legs and sexy glasses introduced the Mayor, and the Mayor, after a few comments about the author and other NPL’s news, introduced Isabel.
Isabel welcomed us and talked about her new book, Maya’s Notebook; the inspiration behind it (her extensive family’s youngsters) and how it was developed. Around this part she commented that she hated Las Vegas, and it was simply hilarious (part of the book happens in Las Vegas, so go figure). She read from her new book in her sweet accent, somewhat distorted by her sore throat but still enchanting and charming.
And here comes the part of the red shirt, since we already met the new friends. After the reading she opened a space for Q & A and yours truly, six feet tall but not scared to use gimmicks, was wearing the infamous crimson flag. As they were passing the mic around, I raised my hand and she said, “There, pass it to the gentleman in the red shirt.” I asked her about dictatorships (since we also had one in Panama) and if it was important for her to keep this theme in her books as a way to keep future generations from forgetting that it happened. She explained that it wasn’t about dictatorships but about tragedies and memories in general because we can have a future without a past.
The questions flew and here are some nuggets of her wit and wisdom.
“The first law of nature is the Law of Reciprocation; you have to give as much as you take.”
"That doesn't look like a son; it looks like a husband." (A woman introduced us to her son she carried while reading The House of the Spirits.) and then Isabel add "Is he normal?" (Because of the book of course.)
“How can you write a book without sex?” (Talking about YA books.)
“My mother married the wrong man, and that’s why I was born in Peru. Not because there is something wrong with Peru, but because something was wrong with my father.”
“Gentlemen, Legacy is a penis word; only men want to tie everything up for when they die and people don’t forget about them.”
The last one is not completely verbatim but it has the essence of it (the penis), this is interesting because she was at a World Religions Conference at an abbey somewhere in Europe, where every other attendant was male (the Dalai Lama, etc.), and the homework of that they was What is your Legacy? And of course one of her first words as she took the stage was conveniently penis. I don’t think it had anything to do with P envy and a lot with V wisdom.
She signed books. We exited. Hubby picked me up (Mamma got her present). It never actually rained or stormed. And on my way home, I was excited because my Eva Luna was complete with the mark of her mother.