Saturday, May 24, 2014

Listening to Writers

Some people may clamor for tickets to hear a favorite band or attend a game by their favorite  football team. Me? I love to hear writers that I admire. When you're interested in a subject, it's fun to hear experts speak about their fields of expertise. Because books and language have been a life-long interest and occupy so much of my time, I love to hear an accomplished author talk about the process of his or her writing. It tops my  list of favorite things to do.

This past week I had the pleasure of meeting Colum McCann when he visited a bookstore in Montclair. The occasion was the release of his novel Transatlantic in paperback. Dressed as he often appears on his book jackets, scarf draped casually on his white shirt, McCann charmed the audience with selections from this latest novel. The book is divided in three sections, one of which is a version of Frederick Douglass's book tour in Ireland in 1845 where he lectured about the  abolitionist cause. The last section of the book centers on Sen. George Mitchell who went to Belfast in 1998 to shepherd Northern Ireland's peace talks. The third crossing of the Atlantic happens in 1919 when two aviators fly from Newfoundland to Ireland. Fictional characters throughout connect these three sections.

McCann is the renowned author of  Let the Great World Spin which won the National Book Award. He told his audience how the idea for a novel has to germinate. It is not rare for an author to work many months on a book and then decide to either abandon it or revise the entire manuscript.

When I lived in Albany, I had occasion to hear speak Richard Russo, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for Empire Falls. He explained some of the better ways to create dialogue.  When Doris Kearns Goodwin came to Albany to receive an award she spoke about the years of research she undertakes for her works of American history.

Several months ago, Christina Baker Kline, author of the best-selling Orphan Trainwas at the Montclair Library and spoke at length about her research into the years when abandoned children in East Coast cities were sent to the Midwest to be adopted primarily by farm families who needed them to provide additional labor.

Norris Church Mailer, the widow of Norman Mailer, visited the Cedar Grove Library a few years ago, and read passages from  A Ticket to the Circus, her memoir of her life before and after she met and married the noted author.

When you're reading a book that you enjoy and one which makes you pause and admire the writer's skill,  it's not hard to understand why you would want to see this talent in person.  I know that Edna O'Brien and Richard Ford are coming soon to  the Irish Arts Center to speak about their work. Perhaps.....