It’s been a busy few months for André Aciman, the Egyptian-born Jewish writer and City University of New York professor whose 2007 coming-of-age novel, “Call Me by Your Name,” was adapted for the film that was up for three Oscars, including best picture, on March 4. James Ivory won for best adapted screenplay. The book has captivated readers with its Proustian depiction of a precocious 17-year-old American boy in love with a 24-year-old man — and a certain infamous scene involving a peach. Aciman will discuss the novel and the film with Debra Markowitz, director of the Nassau County Film Office, at a Long Island LitFest event at Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington on Saturday, March 10, after a screening. He spoke recently with Newsday by telephone; the conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
You published “Call Me by Your Name” to quiet acclaim in 2007, but the success of the film has really jacked up your reputation. Has life changed?
Not really. It’s wonderful to watch something that popped out of your head a few years ago become something that everyone’s talking about. I’ve even been stopped in the street.
Really? That’s unusual for a writer.
Well, not that much, but people at the gym where I train have come up to me and told me they loved the book or movie. It’s just a little thrill.
What is it about the story that has moved so many people?
There’s nothing I’m saying in the book that everyone doesn’t already know. It’s about how we desire someone else and the inhibitions, even the shame, we feel when we’re drawn to someone, and we need them to the point that we won’t tell them. I think the story also makes many people remember things they’ve given up in life. A lot of teenage girls send me emails saying that the story reminds them of crushes that they never did anything about. And I want to say, “You’re too young to be looking back on things!” (Laughs.)
In what way is the film different from the book?
Unless you have a voice-over, which nobody likes, the movie can’t render in any credible way what goes on in Elio’s head or heart. But Timothée Chalamet [who was nominated for best actor] is a genius at showing us Elio’s internal strife on his face. The last scene was the best thing I’ve seen in film in many years.
You and director Luca Guadagnino have been talking about a sequel.
We haven’t agreed yet on what would happen in a credible sequence of events.
What are you working on now?
One thing is a collection of essays about people who feel not quite in the moment, the here and now. I much prefer people who live in the what-might-have-been. The other is a novel about a gentleman in his late 50s who meets a woman in her late 20s on a train. There’s not a plot.
Do you have a writing routine?
I steal a few hours to write every day. I have no set time — I can’t do that. But I wish I did, because I’d be more productive.
You’ve said in interviews that you read no contemporary fiction. Why?
I like the classics. I’d much rather reread a book that was formative for me. Like now, I’m rereading Proust for the umpteenth time. I reread “Jane Eyre” a few months ago. I’m looking for something ancient, archaic or obsolete. For a while, all my friends were reading J.K. Rowling because their kids were, and they said, “It’s good, you should read it.” I said, ‘No, I don’t want to, leave me alone!’ ”
So I would be remiss if I did not ask you if you were partial to peaches.
No! I don’t know where that idea in the book came from. Things happen as you’re writing. The gates are open and things flood out. When people invite me to give a talk, there’s always a peach that materializes. They think they’re being cute.
WHAT Long Island LitFest presents a screening of “Call Me by Your Name,” followed by author André Aciman in conversation with Debra Markowitz, director of the Nassau County Film Office. There will be an audience Q&A and book signing.
WHEN | WHERE Saturday, March 10, at 3:30 p.m. at Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington
INFO $50 (includes copy of book), 631-423-7611, longislandlitfest.com