“History says don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.”
— Seamus Heaney

And so, we find ourselves in the final month of this annus horribilis—and since we’ve just finished watching series four of The Crown, I hope you’ll allow my borrowing the term that Queen Elizabeth II used to describe the year 1992, during which three of her children’s marriages collapsed—including Prince Charles’ to Diana, Princess of Wales—and a fire severely damaged her Windsor Castle home. In 2021, we can look forward to a year that includes a Covid-19 vaccine as well as a less chaotic time under the new U.S. administration.

This is not to suggest that everything about 2020 has been dismal. I’ve recently had it confirmed that—finally—Old New Worlds can now be distributed in South Africa through Ingram Books. Although a number of my stalwart friends have managed to get hold of ONW in South Africa—thank you!—I know it hasn’t been readily available, and this week I’m alerting bookstores about this very welcome development. It has felt bizarre that a book so rooted in South Africa has been hard to come by there, but I’ve learned that the publishing world can tend to move exceeding slow—exacerbated by the worldwide pandemic. Meanwhile, though, I was so thrilled and honored to be invited by a long-standing Baltimore book club to join them via Zoom in their thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion about Old New Worlds, and to be a guest on a forthcoming Situation & the Story Podcast hosted by Chris Moore.

Other heartening news is that, following the distressing SNAFU about the rights for André Brink’s novel A Chain of Voices, I have now signed the short form agreement for my screenplay adaptation of André’s final novel, Philida. The screenplay is with my little team in Cape Town right now, and in many ways, we are even more excited about this project than the last one. The time feels right for a moving story about a courageous young woman who learns to say “No” and, at the same time, won’t take “No” for an answer.

She’s been the focus of my writing life lately, but I’m very much looking forward to getting back to my fiction project again, as I close in on the end of the second draft. Then I will have to start thinking about the scary prospect of gradually trying to nudge it out into the world.

On the WBJC front, it was a privilege to spend four precious minutes talking to two great pianists—Garrick Ohssohn in San Francisco and Kirill Gerstein in Berlin—about a virtual recital they presented for the Shriver Hall Concert Series in Baltimore. So, you see, there are some plusses to this virtual world in which we currently find ourselves—I would never have been able to pull off this geographical three-way interview otherwise! I will leave you with their erudite and probing thoughts about Rachmaninov, Busoni, and Ravel.

I hope you will have a happy and safe holiday season, and I look forward to being in touch with you again in 2021.

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