George Saunders has come to Houston two times already but I passed on him both times. I'd never read Saunders and, frankly, wasn't interested in reading him. I'm not a huge short story reader.
Then I heard he was coming out with his first novel. Intriguing. Plot summary: Willie Lincoln and fellow ghosts in the afterlife. Intriguing. And I had a ticket to his author reading via my season subscription to Inprint. And, rather than an author reading, Saunders had organized a choral reading with actors from the Alley Theater. Intriguing. Furthermore, though I couldn't initially get my hands on a copy of his novel, I was able to find and read his most recent collection of short stories, and I was amazed at the freshness of Saunders' writing. Sold.
The set at the Alley Theater, arranged for a play, was actually eerily appropriate for a reading from Saunders' novel, Lincoln in the Bardo. The story takes place in a mysterious bardo, an afterlife, shortly following the passing of young Willie Lincoln. His father comes for a final visit with Willie at the cemetery where the little body has been temporarily interred in a friend's crypt, and Abe Lincoln, full of grief, acts on an impulse and pulls the child's body from his coffin and takes him in his arms. All around Lincoln, though unseen to him, are the ghosts and spirits of others who have passed away yet linger with the child in the bardo. "A laugh riot, " Saunders jokes.
The story is written like a play, of a sort. The author intersperses paragraphs and phrases he has taken from letters and books about Lincoln and the Civil War and the time. It sound It's brilliant and new and poignant.
After the reading, Saunders was interviewed by a faculty member of the UH Creative Writing Program, Mat Johnson. Saunders, like Johnson, is both a writer and a teacher of writers, and he tossed out tiny quotes and inspirations and thoughts for writers all night. "No worthy problem is ever solved within the plane of its original conception," says Einstein. And from author Donald Barthelme: " A writer is one who, embarking on a task, does not know what to do...." Saunders might be best when talking about the writing process.
What else? Well, happily, I was approved for a media pass to BookExpo, so it looks like I'll be headed to New York City in May. Please share suggestions for what to do, what to see, what to eat, where to stay. I'm terribly excited.
Here's what I'm reading next week:
Anne of Green Gables
The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot
Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith
Stand Up and Sing: Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice
These are all wonderful books. I wouldn't be surprised if they were all in my Best of 2017.
Where am I, this fine spring break? If all goes well, I'm up in the Ozarks, on my hands and knees, digging through the beautiful red soil for quartz crystals. Weather forecast is for rain and freezing temperatures. Let's hope the weather folks get that wrong.
What is the Sunday Salon? Imagine some university library's vast reading room. It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in. They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them,and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they'll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake....That's what happens at the Sunday Salon, except it's all virtual. Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book. Click here to join the Salon.
The Sunday Post is a meme hosted by Kimba at Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It's a chance to share news and recap the past week.
Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share books that we found in our mailboxes last week.
It is now being hosted here.
Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews in which you can share the books you've acquired.
It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is where we share what we read this past week, what we hope to read this week…. and anything in between! This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well… you never know where that next “must read” book will come from! I love being a part of this and I hope you do too! It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is now being hosted at The Book Date.