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Interview with Paola Calvetti

November 2, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Paola Calvetti, author of PO Box Love: A Novel in Letters accepted to do a interview via e-mail after we had selected her book for our book club. So we wrote down a list of questions after discussing the novel.

Thanks again, Paola, for taking the time to answer our questions!

How did you imagine Emma’s bookstore? Does her shop exist somewhere or is it your dream of a bookshop?

Paola Calvetti: Emma’s bookshop is the sort of bookstore I dream of discovering. I miss that sort of independent bookshop and there are so few of them. I dreamed it up because I felt the need to go there in my head, to dream and to discover books. Every time Emma goes to her shop and I describe it I felt at home there, nostalgic. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found it in real life…but I am still looking!

Why did you choose the renovating of the Pierpont Morgan Library as a central “character” of the book?

Paola Calvetti: I chose the Pierpont Morgan Library because it is an absolutely extraordinary place, in many ways. It is more than just a building. John Pierpoint Morgan, was a man who loved beauty and wanted to surround himself with it. I find it very symbolic that his Library was transformed by a modern day genius, Renzo Piano, such that it has now been transformed into a place of extraordinary vitality, where people go to exchange thoughts, ideas, perhaps even meet for the first time, or just enjoy a silent moment. You can have a coffee and meet Jane Austen together.

Why the epistolary form?

Paola Calvetti: Federico chooses to write letters and through those letters he reflects on his life, his marriage and his work. The Morgan Library and Emma’s bookstore are two places that serve as metaphors where the two lovers “use” to recount their lives, their passions, their thoughts, and project their future….Writing a letter by hand allows you the time which an email does not. It is “slow” communication as opposed to the two lines of an sms or an email which is the literary equivalent of Fast Food.

Did you intend to place this book on the path of great love stories?

Paola Calvetti: I see the novel as a on the path of great love: romantic love but also a love of books, of family, of time, friendship…all those values which are eternal and keep us alive.

 Before opening her bookstore, Emma spent time in Lapland to think about her life. In Paolo Giordano’s novel, The Solitude of Prime Numbers, Mattia accepts a position in Sweden to leave his personal problems behind. Is there an Italian myth of going North to find isolation and think?

Paola Calvetti: I was born on January 10th. I love snow and Northern countries in both Europe and North America. Montreal for example is one of my favorite cities, marvelous, truly.

Have you read all the books listed in the novel?

Paola Calvetti: Yes I have. A true bookseller reads all the books she recommends. And I would never dare write about anything I didn’t know.

How do you use Internet to promote your books?

Paola Calvetti: I use facebook, and in France the publisher organized a blogger meeting, where I met with a group of bloggers. For the US editions, there is a fabulous marketing plan in place which will begin in January in which the book itself will be the protagonist talking about how excited it is to be in the bookstores in the States.

How is the situation of independent bookstore in Italy ?

Paola Calvetti: The general trend is not in favour of the independents but I love them and they (thankfully) love Emma. Amazon just arrived in Italy, so the readers still depend on the bookstores, but unfortunately, over half of sales are in the chains or supermarkets.

Who’s you favourite author ?

Paola Calvetti: I have so many, please don’t ask me to choose one. It would be like asking you to pick your favorite child. Some of my favorites are : Cunningham, Cameron, Foer, Tolstoy, Austen, Woolf. And I am always looking for new authors.

  1. November 3, 2011 at 1:58 am

    Thanks Emma for this. The book hasn’t hit the US yet (as mentioned in the interview)

    Like

    • November 3, 2011 at 9:35 am

      Yes it will be in US bookstores in January.

      Like

  2. November 3, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Thanks Emma and Paola.
    Ah, yes, Renzo Pinao’s buidlings are interesting. We have an building of an art collector here
    http://www.fondationbeyeler.ch/Museum
    I just sawe an interesting book reviewed on Conrflower’s page : Anne Scott’s 18 Bookshops. I’m sure there is the one or the other dream bookshop in that book. Worth looking at .

    Like

    • November 3, 2011 at 9:34 am

      We have one of his buildings here too: La Cité Internationale.

      That would be a nice event to do: each of us posts about bookstores in their city.

      Like

  3. November 3, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Fascinating stuff. I love book shops and when I go to France I find that many small towns have shops which sell newspapers but also have a substantial collection of books on display. Even the little newspaper shop in La Flotte, Ile de Ré (where we were in September) had a good range of books. I shall watch out for this book when it is published in English next year

    Like

    • November 3, 2011 at 1:33 pm

      We still have 3000 independant bookstore in France. They are preserved thanks to a law on book prices : you can’t discount book by more than 5% and the price is fixed by the publisher.
      There’s a big discussion about ebooks at the moment, as Amazon has now a kindle store on their France site (I have a kindle but buy books on Amazon US) and as publishers have agreed to open their catalogues to electronic versions.
      Independant bookstores are afraid of ebooks (“liseuse” in French) but so far, I think the electronic versions are too expensive here and more difficult to lend than paper versions. It will take time.

      Like

  4. November 3, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Fascinating. It sounds like a very different world to the UK where independent bookshops are declining in number all the time.

    Like

    • November 4, 2011 at 12:03 am

      The situation isn’t idyllic here but they survive. Thanks to text books for students too. The question “And if there weren’t any bookstore anymore” makes the headlines of the cultural magazine I read. Turn the page and there’s an ad for the kindle.
      They say in the article that the number of independent bookstores dropped by 26 percent in 6 years in the UK and that France is the first European country for the number of independent bookstores. Let’s hope we’ll keep them.

      Like

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