An excited buzz can be heard from the ground floor on the Manchester City Library. A special event will start soon – bestselling author Hanya Yanagihara is here to present her newest book To Paradise. She also answers fans’ burning questions, including ones about her most famous book, A Little Life.
The event begins and the host, Simon Savidge, recounts the previous time he saw the author, which was during the presentation of A Little Life, which at that point was far from a bestseller. Simon and Hanya have good chemistry, often sharing all sorts of jokes that I probably shouldn’t repeat. The audience is attentive and often laughs at many jokes that were said that night.
Hanya Yanagihara is very witty and knows her audience well. The event felt cheerful and light-hearted even though the topics discussed were quite dark. She is also very knowledgeable, giving her opinions about different topics she contemplated and researched while writing the book, which is over 700 pages long.
At the end, the audience had the opportunity to ask her questions. It was clear that she is a professional, as she rephrased and shortened every question from the crowd, referred to people in a variety of kind epithets (‘This amazing person has asked this…’) and answered them in an interesting manner.
During this part, she made light of the fact that no one usually asks questions about her first book People in the Trees, referring to the book as the one “which no one read”.
Lastly, everyone had the chance to get their books signed and speak with the author personally. I waited for around 40 minutes and that wasn’t even the longest people waited. Since all of Yanagihara’s books are quite thick, many people showed signs of exhaustion from carrying and holding those books for so long!
I spoke with Hanya and made a joke about how the book is called To Paradise, which sounds like something she writes during signing (e.g., To [fan’s name]). She said no one has pointed that out before and I felt pretty chuffed.
I have never read a book by Hanya Yanagihara. I went to the event to hear her reasoning for writing the way she does (for example, from a perspective of a gay man). She believes that a good author should not only write from their perspective but explore different identities. However, this has to be done empathetically and by fleshing the characters out very well.
The audience was filled with people who love her books. Some people have gone to her events in other cities and she remembered specific people from the crowd from her signing at London. Her presence was strong and every one of her jokes landed well.
As someone who has never read a single book by her, I felt intrigued. I do want to read To Paradise, especially after the event, as her presentation convinced me to give her writing a try. But as it must be said – please check trigger warnings before delving into her worlds, as they are inordinately painful and difficult to navigate.