Alyssa Capel ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
On Friday January 22 at the Harvard Book Store, veteran short story author Pamela Painter presented a reading from her new collection of short stories, Ways to Spend the Night (released February 2, 2016). She was joined by debut author Ioannis Pappos, whose novel Hotel Living (released June 23, 2015) is informed by his career as a management consultant. The reading took place in the back of the bookstore, where shelves had been moved aside to make room for a small table, lectern, and rows of chairs, which were soon fully occupied.
After a short introduction about both of their works, Painter introduced Pappos and he gave a reading from the beginning of his book. The main character’s experiences are based on Pappos’ own as a traveling businessman. The period of his life fictionally chronicled in Hotel Living was characterized by a nonstop lifestyle of business, parties, and back-to-back stays in upscale hotels. Pappos’ writing isn’t shy about these subjects, providing detailed anecdotes that seem as though they could be non-fiction.
After Pappos gave the reading from his book, Painter took the lectern and read a short story from her new collection. The story, entitled “Home Depot,” is about a pivotal moment in a couple’s marriage: when they announce to the wife’s parents that they are separating. Told from the point of view of the husband, it follows his anxieties about upsetting his in-laws and his worries about his future without his wife. The reading was met with enthusiastic applause from the audience, many of whom were friends or former students of Painter.
Following the two readings was a short question and answer session. One audience member asked Pappos how he came to write a book after so many years working in business. Pappos explained that his inspiration for the book came from his own experiences. After becoming disenchanted with his lifestyle, Pappos put his consultant career on hold and returned to the village in Greece where his father still lives. There he wrote the first draft of the book in a matter of months. He added that he has not yet returned to his previous career and hopes to continue writing. As to a question about writing in English versus his native Greek, he explained that it seemed natural to him; he has never written creatively in Greek. Another audience member asked Painter, by this time a prolific short story writer, if the plot or the characters usually come to her first. She answered that it often depends but for “Home Depot” it was actually the setting, a house on a road that faces the back of a Home Depot store, which came first. The problem between the couple that threatens their marriage was a situation Painter was keen to explore, and the setting provided the perfect backdrop for that. After the event had ended, audience members had the opportunity to purchase copies of Ways to Spend the Night and Hotel Living and have them signed by the authors.