Author signings tend to be a crapshoot, but Andrew Seal claims to have seen a great one with noted Spanish novelist Javier Marías, who must be touring for the third book of the Your Face Tomorrow trilogy:
Marías was not cagey; in fact, he was much more candid than I would have anticipated. He seemed completely comfortable noting autobiographical correspondences with his characters or with events in his books (e.g., the girl’s suicide at the beginning of A Heart So White is part of his family’s history, though the rest is not, or not factually). There were no self-inflating pretensions of “it’s so reductive to read this as autobiography!” It was merely, “well, yes, I use things from my life, but I trust my readers to know where one ends and another begins.” (These aren’t direct quotes or even paraphrases, but rather impressions—I had a shortage of paper and didn’t feel like transcribing anyway.)
And Marías was more eloquent in extemporaneously articulating his philosophy of the novel and his own perceptions of his writing than many writers are with a prepared speech. . . .
Marias is a novelist I haven’t yet read, though the high praise he has received from impressive authors (including Roberto Bolano) makes him high on my TBR list. Though, I know of at least one notable detractor . . .
This tidbit on his method of composition sounds vaguely reminiscent of Cesar Aira:
Finally, he offered an interesting account of how he writes. After a page is finished—I don’t believe he said “perfected,” but he could have, not because he was less than humble, but because that would be an appropriate verb for his writing—he will not add new material or subtract anything from it to restructure the shape of the narrative. He says he will make continuity corrections (switching a Thursday to a Tuesday), but he doesn’t change what he has written if doing so might make things more convenient for the novel at a later stage; if Marías didn’t think of it the first time, he has to write his way around it at the point in the narrative when it becomes necessary to do so.