Many features remain the same with each salon – the potato salad, the cheese, the cakes, the wines, the order of events. Regular attendees know the routine, newcomers quickly get the drift.
There is one ingredient, however, that changes each time: The Author. I might know their book by heart. But I cannot predict their behaviour. The Author is the ingredient that makes the Salon truly exciting.
Some are brilliant performers. Some are funny and make the audience laugh. Some are story tellers. Some deep thinkers. Some talk fast, some talk slowly, some reveal, others hold back.
But each time our guests gain an insight into the workings of a creative mind and have the chance to encounter a new idea or an innovative thought.
However, what happened at the Salon last Saturday was unprecedented.
The Norwegian author Hanne Ørstavik introduced her novel The Blue Room. Rarely have I come across a more generous and honest author. She showed us her vulnerability but also her strength. She engaged with the audience without fear and pretense. She said what she wanted to say but never stopped listening. Her openness encouraged the guests to tell their own stories. And once the official part of the evening was finished they crowded around her in a circle and continued to talk. Group therapy at its most beautiful and effective.
Seeing Hanne Ørstavik in action presents living proof of the strength that wonderful literature can give.
Unfortunately though not all my guests were capable of appreciating the uniqueness of the evening. Literary and therapeutic goodness was lost on them. Sad but true. And to my great shame I must admit: my husband and the Nymph belonged to that group. At precisely 11pm they brought out the whisky and turned on the football. I didn’t want to create a domestic row so I retreated to the kitchen with others more inclined to literature. I did, however, tap Peirene on her shoulder in silent outrage. ‘I didn’t know you were an England football fan?’ I hissed into her ear. She simply ignored me and continued starring at the screen.
I knew why: She was jealous that Hanne had stolen the show.
Image by Ross Griff.