The author turned his head away from the microphone and cleared his throat.
“This initial little hors d’oeuvre is from my first novel, a semi-autobiographical Bildungsroman which most of you know as “Shaking the Sun”, but which originally bore the title “The Incredibly Visible Man”. To set this up, for those of you who haven’t read the book (shame), you just have to know that the protagonist, Jesse, who’s basically an amalgamation of me and a young Hemingway, has taken his inheritance and run away to the Ivory Coast, where he hopes to find a new mindset for life, a break from his traditional bourgeoisie upbringing, and while there, in the capital city of Yamoussoukro, he encounters a mysterious young woman who captures his heart:
Jesse caught sight of her from across the marketplace: her skin, dark and toothsome in the sun, reminded him of the marmoreal smoothness of the Swiss chocolate bars he had eaten as a child, in his family’s Geneva chalet. Her every movement suggested a primal sensuality, and Jesse felt himself stir somewhere. When she locked eyes with him, he thought that her gaze carried with it an intense interrogation, a single question that Jesse took to be something like: do you enjoy long, slow fucks on the beach?
“My editor and I argued over the inclusion of this passage, which I considered integral to Jesse’s character development, for about a month and a half. Stands up pretty well, I think. Should have fought harder for it. Anyway, in the final copy of the book, as some of you know, instead of meeting the aforementioned sweet local girl in the marketplace, Jesse has his first encounter with Millicent Hadden, an heiress on the run from her own family, a family that is equally strict and repressed in all sorts of ways. The implication being, as I’m sure some of you have guessed, that the capitalism of love is an ineluctable aspect of our society. One can run to the ends of the earth and still not escape it!”
The author gripped the podium very tightly. Even from my seat, I could see that his knuckles were white in flexion; it looked as he and the lectern were locked in small, transanimating battle. I sniffled as quietly as I could. He continued.