Hanya Yanagihara in Conversation at the Athenaeum

I was lucky enough to get tickets to the sold out event to see Hanya Yanagihara in conversation in Melbourne at the Athenaeum theatre, put on by the Wheeler Centre. My friend messaged me to tell me about it and we booked tickets a week in advance just as they had upgraded the location due to demand (which subsequently sold out too.) Having read A Little Life as my friend was reading it for the second time, we knew it was the perfect little date for us.

In the bookshop, we would have people coming in asking about it every single day in November/December. We would order stacks of twenty of this gigantic book and they would sell out in 1 or 2 days. People were going nuts and we couldn’t keep up with the orders. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize of 2015, and was the favourite to win, however, it lost to A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James which definitely didn’t have the same word-of-mouth support as A Little Life, in fact it is on our sale table at the moment (not that that means it’s a bad book!)

Obviously I knew I would have to read A Little Life but I knew I would have to be in the right mood. It is depressing, brutal and doesn’t shy away from anything. When I first read A Little Life, I didn’t know how to express how I felt. I gave it a 5 star rating on GoodReads and left it at that. I think that a lot of people connect with it in different ways. And because it’s filled with many difficult topics, people (myself included) don’t exactly know how to explain how or why they connected with it so deeply.

I was very excited to hear from Hanya as I was so entranced with this idea of a woman with a Japanese name writing a book about four American men, three of whom are gay or bisexual, but not stereotypically so. I met up with a friend and we grabbed a coffee before seeing the conversation. We had a bit of a giggle at the demographic that showed up- we might have been the youngest people there! Everyone else seemed to be middle-aged white ladies with cropped blonde hair and glasses- IT WAS WEIRD!

I was so excited that I can hardly remember anything that was said, except I know that I really want to read Yanagihara’s first book now. And people were somehow shocked that there were spoilers in the discussion (who pays to go to a book talk when they haven’t read the book??) You can actually listen to the podcast of the event on the Wheeler Centre’s Facebook page, if you’re interested!

After the talk we waited in line to get our books signed. Once it was our turn we gushed and fangirled but Yanagihara was so lovely and kind. I probably said something embarrassing whilst fangirling but she took it very nicely and was nothing but kind. All in all, it was a fantastic night and I hope to see more book talks in the future!



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