Tuesday, 7:00 pm EDT October 17, 2023
The Center for Fiction
The Ticket/Voucher option includes a $10 Bookstore voucher, redeemable toward the featured event book on the night of the event.
Join us for a very special evening with Tan Twan Eng, celebrated author of The Gift of Rain and The Garden of Evening Mists, in conversation with Brandon Taylor (Real Life, The Late Americans) about Eng’s latest novel, The House of Doors. This recently announced Booker Longlist title is a masterpiece of historical fiction about William Somerset Maugham’s time in Malaysia and his entanglement with a mysterious couple staying with him at the Cassowary House. The great novelist’s career and fortunes are both in decline, and his ability to lead a double life—married to a woman, in love with his secretary, Gerald—depends on his ability to find the subject for a new novel. Following a dramatic reading from the book, Eng and Taylor will discuss the novel’s themes of colonialism, revolution, storytelling, and redemption, as well as crafting historical fiction and writing on famous writers. After the conversation, Eng will sign and personalize books.
Tan Twan Eng
Tan Twan Eng
Tan Twan Eng was born in Penang but lived in various places in Malaysia as a child. He studied law through the University of London, and later worked as an advocate and solicitor in one of Kuala Lumpur’s most reputable law firms. His first novel, The Gift of Rain, was longlisted for the Man Booker in 2007. His second, The Garden of Evening Mists was a major international bestseller, shortlisted for the Man Booker in 2012 and winner of the Man Asia Literary Prize 2012 and the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction. It was adapted into an award-winning film in 2019 that was directed by Tom Lin. Twan divides his time between Malaysia and South Africa.
Photo Credit: Lloyd Smith
Brandon Taylor is the author of the novels The Late Americans and Real Life, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, and named a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and a Science + Literature Selected Title by the National Book Foundation. His collection Filthy Animals, a national bestseller, was awarded The Story Prize and shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. He is the 2022-2023 Mary Ellen von der Heyden Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.
Photo Credit: Haolun Xu
The House of Doors
By Tan Twan Eng
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing / Macmillan
The year is 1921. Lesley Hamlyn and her husband, Robert, a lawyer and war veteran, are living at Cassowary House on the Straits Settlement of Penang. When “Willie” Somerset Maugham, a famed writer and old friend of Robert’s, arrives for an extended visit with his secretary, Gerald, the pair threatens a rift that could alter more lives than one.
Maugham, one of the great novelists of his day, is beleaguered: having long hidden his homosexuality, his unhappy and expensive marriage of convenience becomes unbearable after he loses his savings—and the freedom to travel with Gerald. His career deflating, his health failing, Maugham arrives at Cassowary House in desperate need of a subject for his next book. Lesley, too, is enduring a marriage more duplicitous than it first appears. As her friendship with Willie grows, she makes the dangerous decision to confide in him, telling him tales of life in the Straits, including how she came to know Dr. Sun Yat Sen, a charismatic Chinese revolutionary, and the scandalous case of an Englishwoman charged with murder in Kuala Lumpur—an outrage drawn from fact and, to Willie, worthy of fiction.
A mesmerizingly beautiful novel based on real events, The House of Doors traces the fault lines of race, gender, and power under Empire, and dives deep into the complicated nature of love and friendship in its shadow.
About this series
Our Story/Teller series features actors reading from new works of fiction to give audiences a taste of the language, characters, and story, followed by moderated conversations with the authors.
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A Final Reading with The Center for Fiction / Susan Kamil 2022-2023 Emerging Writer Fellows
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Biblio Bacchanal: Wine & Book Pairings
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Let Us Descend: A Conversation with Jesmyn Ward and Ta-Nehisi Coates$35
Tuesday, 7:00 pm EDT October 24, 2023
On America: Tim O’Brien on America Fantastica with Rick MacArthur
Wednesday, 7:00 pm EDT October 25, 2023
The International Library: Attila Bartis on The End
Thursday, 1:30 pm EDT October 26, 2023
Story/Teller Arts: James Ijames on Fat Ham
Tuesday, 7:00 pm EDT October 31, 2023
In Translation: The Complete Clarice Lispector Translations
Wednesday, 7:00 pm EDT November 1, 2023
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Wednesday, 7:00 pm EDT November 8, 2023