On a rainy Thursday evening in Boston, Quincy Carroll took his audience’s imaginations to the countryside of China. The crowd in the Commonwealth Salon in the Central Library in Copley Square sat engaged as Carroll discussed the inspiration for the novel “Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside” as well as reading two carefully chosen passages from the book.
Carroll began the talk by discussing how his background and personal experiences influenced the novel. Born and raised in Natick, Massachusetts, Carroll attended Yale University. After graduating in 2007, Carroll headed to New York to enter the financial world in sales and trading. It didn’t take long for Carroll to realize that he wanted a different life, leading him to quit his job and move to China. Before departing he found a graphic novel, “East meets West,” by Yang Liu that informed his knowledge of the differences between the cultures. Upon arriving in China, however, he found quickly there was a gap in the literary world for an exploration of foreigners living and experiencing China and Chinese culture. After returning to America, Carroll enrolled in the Creative Writing MFA program at Emerson College and the journey of writing “Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside,” began.
The first passage Carroll read was a particularly meaningful one, considering the location of the talk. Carroll revealed to the audience that this portion of the novel was written just a few yards away in Bates Hall at the Central Library in Copley Square. This passage is also significant as it’s the first time we meet two of the main characters, Thomas Guillard and Bella while they waited for a train to Ningyuan. The scene creates an image for the audience of Guillard’s nonchalant attitude towards the Chinese culture, through his smoking and staring at a nearby girl. The passage sets the audience up to learn more about these two characters and how their different backgrounds will influence their relationship.
The second passage Carroll read introduces the other main character, Daniel. Daniel is traveling by bus to visit friends and the contrast between him and Thomas is immediately felt. At one point Daniel automatically nods to a man he passes and is embarrassed because “Simply because they came from different countries did not mean they owe each other a hello.” This quote spoke to Daniel’s mindfulness of the culture and his role as an outsider.
Carroll ended the night thanking everyone who attended, as well as answering numerous questions from the audience. In response to the questions, Carroll discussed the artful act of infusing Chinese into a novel meant for English speakers, his plans for the next novel, and that the characters were hybrids of many different people he met in his travels.
This talk is part of the Boston Public Library’s Author Talk Series. The next talk in the series will take place on Monday, May 9, 2016, at 6 p.m. featuring Paul Lewis, editor of “The Citizen Poets of Boston: A Collection of Forgotten Poems, 1789-1820, and taking place in the Commonwealth Salon at the Central Library in Copley Square. Learn more via here.