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Will Evans Is Now a French Knight

Last night at Hotel Swexan, he became a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
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Will Evans with his Chevalier medal and his team. Back, from left: Linda Stack-Nelson, Sarah McEachern, Sara Balabanlilar, S Rodriguez, Noah Mintz; front: Eliana Gala, Evans, Gino Dal Cin Courtesy Deep Vellum

For the May issue of D Magazine, I conducted a hard-hitting Q&A with Will Evans in anticipation of his receiving a high honor from the French government, a knighthood called the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. The Ministry of Culture recognized Will for the 200 or so French books from 13 countries that his Deep Vellum has translated into English. The ceremony took place last night in the library at Babou’s, in the Hotel Swexan (more on the library in a moment).

Mohamed Bouabdallah got things started. He is the cultural counselor of France in the United States and came in from New York to do the honors. Bouabdallah first apologized for disappointing Will for what he called the “chevalier package” of benefits. Referring to my Q&A, he let everyone know that the knighthood would not grant Will speedy access through TSA. Nor would it allow him to cut the line at the Louvre.

I laughed like Robert De Niro playing Max Cady and shouted, “Putain de merde! C’est hystérique! Tu me fais mal aux côtés et mon cœur bat la chamade!” (That’s a lie. I actually just thought, “Pretty cool that the cultural counselor of France in the United States subscribes to D Magazine.”)

After Bouabdallah slayed the room, Will made some remarks. I asked him later how much he’d prepared for his speech. He said he’d given it some thought in the shower that morning. That’s it. So I am hereby bestowing another honor on Will. He is now Dallas’ Super Meest Uitstekende Geïmproviseerde Spreker. For those who don’t speak Dutch, that means I think Will is a wonderful public speaker. I mean that. If I could steal two superpowers from two Dallas notables, I would steal Kyrie’s hugging and Will’s public speaking.

Anyway, Will worked the room at Babou’s library into a literary frenzy. He talked about Dallas sitting at the crossroads of the world, and Deep Vellum bringing the world to Dallas and Dallas to the world. He did this without stumbling, even as his small boy escaped his wife’s clutches and tried to overtake the proceedings. Meriwether might be a great lawyer, but perhaps she should invest in la laisse pour le chien. (I’m kidding! The Evans children brought to the affair a sense of playfulness and informality that only Ben Fountain, having been literarily upstaged, could hate. (Another joke! This is like a parenthetical Inception! Ben was there last night, and he was happily wearing a tie.))

What else do you need to know? Gabriel Barbier-Mueller was there. Mag Gabbert was there. Emeline Colson was there. No Babou, though.

Which brings me to the library. We were surrounded by two stories of books last night. It got me wondering: where did all the books come from? I randomly pulled a book off a shelf. It was Edna Ferber’s American Beauty, and it turned out to be a first edition. Nothing special—but still. If you filled a library with books like that, it would be expensive. I asked the bartender about the library, and she said the books had all been purchased, en masse, at a huge sale—those with barren shelves can buy books by the foot—but that there had been a surprise. A bunch of the books turned out to have leaned Nazi.

My conclusion? Meriwether is the coolest first name ever for a badass lawyer, and Balabanlilar is the coolest last name ever for a book publisher. Meriwether Balabanlilar is the superhero we need to convince the Dallas Morning News that Dallas is a literary town.

Author

Tim Rogers

Tim Rogers

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Tim is the editor of D Magazine, where he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…
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