For those who went intellectually hungry last Tuesday noon, we toss you a few crumbs from our lunch with Patrick McGrath, the author of such eerie novels as Asylum and the brand new Trauma. Though an official American citizen and resident New Yorker for the past 30 years, McGrath has lost none of his English charm and doled it out generously to the group of admirers, both new and long-standing, who attended Tuesday's event. He proved to be a good sport before a particularly fiesty and lovely trio of sisters from Oxford, who had read and admired much of McGrath's work. They lit into him as the Asian shrimp salad starter course arrived, performing a psychoanalysis on the author, who, like the characters in Asylum, once lived in a hospital for the criminally insane, where his father was resident psychiatrist. His father's dinner-table conversation about his patients and their sundry psychoses fired young Patrick's imagination and continues to play out in his fiction, where he famously uses the practice of psychiatry to reveal his characters' inner lives. The author wavered only when the sisters pointed to the recurring and complex mother-son relationships and contentious brotherly bonds in his work, inquiring if some of his own family drama had not bled over into his fictional universe. The author, blushing not from the fiery Asian dressing but perhaps from some sudden psychotherapeutic breakthrough, gulped his sweet tea, then pled the writer's defense, "Well ... but it's only fiction, after all."
These critical topics out of the way, the conversation drifted from psychiatry to movies, books, Broadway, and recent travels. Those in attendance enjoyed, amid the discussion, a fine penne pasta dish and a wonderfully light tiramisu, all provided by chef Benji Perkins of Giardina's, the popular downtown restaurant on the hotel's lobby floor. After the meal, McGrath read the first chapter from Trauma, which you can read here, then signed the books of all in attendance.
We've hosted several of these Turnrow on the Terrace events (past luncheons have featured John Berendt, Cassandra King, Doug Marlette and Sonny Brewer) in conjunction with the Alluvian Hotel, and those who attend always proclaim them to be a rousing success and a real bargain, considering the quality of the meal, the intimacy with the author, and the inclusion of a copy of the book. If you're in Greenwood or nearby, we hope you'll attend one of our Terrace events. The next one happens May 21 with Tony Horwitz, best-selling author of Confederates in the Attic. His new book, A Voyage Long and Strange, is a hilarious history lesson of America's founding, from the Vikings up to the legendary landing on Plymouth Rock.
Thanks to Patrick McGrath for stopping in Greenwood, as well as our friend Ron Shapiro, who served as his guide through Mississippi. And finally, thanks to Benji for the great meal.