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Christopher Paolini on Multiculturalism, Synchronicity and Dwarven Operas

I took Evan and two friends to see Christopher Paolini, author of Eragon and Eldest, speak at Mercer Island High School at an event sponsored by Island Books on Tuesday night. 

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Paolini gave an engaging presentation on a number of themes related to his books and his writing process.  He said that second books of any trilogy are typically dark and foreboding, as they have to set the stage for the final triumph contained in a trilogy's third book.  First books introduce the characters and context, and second books allow for more in-depth exploration of those characters and their context and even culture; Paolini said he was particularly keen to elaborate on the different races and cultures (Elves, Dwarfs and the Varden) of Alagaesia -- the fictious world his characters inhabit -- in his second book (Eldest). 

[Aside: ever since Hurricane Katrina, I have been more attuned to race, class and culture issues myself ... and I noticed that of the 700+ people who were at the talk and booksigning event, there was only one black family present.  I don't know what proportion of Mercer Island residents are black, but I was surprised by this 0.5% representation at the event ... and got to wonder whether there was a significant racial skew in the readership of Eragon and Eldest ... and what this may say about the racial differences in where children look for heroic figures (Eragon is clearly a hero in my son's view).   I saw a number of Asian families in line, so I don't think Alagaesia and its inhabitants are of interest solely to people of European descent.  Anyhow, back to the event...]

Paolini shared several instances of synchronicity [my term] he has experienced.  The day before his first Island Books book talk, he received an offer from Random House to publish Eragon (which had, up until then, been a self-published book ... and Island Books was instrumental in spreading the word about the book at that early stage).  The day before his second Island Books talk, he received a message from 20th Century Fox that they were going to make an Eragon movie.   While he was writing Eldest, he struggled for months to solve a puzzle ring someone had given him, and incorporated a puzzle ring into the story ... and the day he wrote the section where the puzzle ring was solved in the book, he solved his real world puzzle ring.

In another example of "crossover" from the fictional to non-fictional world, the author read some passages written in the languages he created for the characters in his world: one passage in "the ancient language" of the Elves, another in the Dwarven language.  I have to admit that I stumble through these passages myself, when reading with Evan, so it was a treat to hear them read so clearly (and with such feeling!).  There were a number of other fun and interesting tidbits that Paolini shared during his 30-minute talk -- which helped compensate for our subsequent 90-minute wait to get his signature inscribed in the books the boys brought -- but I'll finish with his idea of a "dream job": writing Dwarven Operas.

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