I don’t often use this space to write about my life activities, but I’m making an exception today because my weekend was filled with activities that I think Shelf Love readers would find interesting. It was truly a literature geek’s weekend.
The fun started on Friday night. Some of you may know that I’m a big theatre lover, so much so that I volunteer as an usher at two theatres here in Washington, DC. When I work as an usher, I get to stay and see the show for free. It’s a good deal, especially this weekend because the Shakespeare Theatre Company hosted the National Theatre in London’s production of Phedre with Helen Mirren. This show sold out in just a few hours, so I was very excited that I was able to get on the schedule to usher. Helen Mirren is just as wonderful on stage as she is on the screen, and the play by Jean Racine and translated by Ted Hughes is terrific. Probably not my favorite show I’ve seen at the Shakespeare Theatre (that honor goes to the wild and woolly production of King Learwith Stacy Keach they presented this summer), but still very, very good.
Yesterday was the National Book Festival on the Washington mall. Every year that I’ve been able to go there haven’t been any authors coming who seemed worth fighting the crowds for, but when I saw that Marilynne Robinson would be there this year, I knew I couldn’t miss it. (If you remember my reviews of Gilead and Home, you’ll know that my opinion of her writing couldn’t be any higher.) I started by waiting in the rain for the book signing. The line was very slow, so slow that those of us waiting speculated that she might be trying to help us experience the languid pace of her books. As it turns out, she just signs slowly, forming every letter as deliberately as she chooses her words in her books.
After the signing, I went to the tent where Robinson would be speaking and caught the tail end of the talk by Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran. I enjoyed Reading Lolita, so I was glad to hear her. She spoke about how every culture has things to be ashamed of and things to be proud of and about how literature and philosophy are invaluable to making a society one to be proud of. She was an impressive speaker, and I may just have to read her new book.
Next up was Robinson herself. She read from Home and then took questions. In the Q&A, she spoke about how pleased she was at how Gilead has been embraced by people around the world, including those who are not of the Reformed Christian tradition that undergirds the novel. (Honestly, the reception of her books puts the lie to the notion that people outside the church, particularly the cultural elite, don’t want to read about people of faith.) When asked about the long gap between Housekeeping and Gilead she said that she did not want to write another Housekeeping, and she needed to take the time to read and learn and bring her brain into a different place. Alas, she did not mention any upcoming book. Personally, I wish there had been more time for questions or for her to simply talk, rather than read.
The capstone of the evening was dinner with a lovely group of book bloggers, many of whom are local to the DC area but some of whom had traveled to the area for the festival. As it happens, most were not regular Shelf Love readers, nor do I regularly read many of their blogs, but it was still a great night to bond over books and chat and laugh and have fun with others who know what it is to love books and to want to blog about them. Even if our book tastes and blogging styles and goals are different, we were able to come together over our passion for books. So warm regards to Rebecca at The Book Lady’s Blog, Cara at Ooh . . . Books!, Swapna at S. Krishna’s Books, Amy at My Friend Amy, Jill at Rhapsody in Books, Deborah at Books, Movies, and Chinese Food, Michelle at GalleySmith, Trish at Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?, Nicole at Linus’s Blanket, Jennifer at Literate Housewife, Meg at Write Meg, Anna at Diary of an Eccentric, and Serena at Savvy Verse and Wit. (I didn’t get to talk to everyone there, so I hope I’m not leaving anyone out! If so, my apologies!)
All in all, a good weekend for a literature lover like me!
Notes from a Bookish Life
- The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. Booker shortlister #2 for me. My first Waters novel and first of what I hope will be many joint reviews with Jenny!
- Vanilla Beans and Brodoby Isabella Dusi. A memoir about life in Tuscany. A book club read. Review to come.
- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt on audio. Review to come
- The Ode Less Traveled by Stephen Fry. Lessons in writing poetry. Still playing around with verse forms.
- Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. This seems to be the current favorite to win the Booker prize, and it will be my first Mantel. Just starting it today.
- Comfort Me with Apples by Ruth Reichl on audio. A foodie memoir from the library.
- The rest of the Booker shortlist: The Glass Houseby Simon Mawer, Summertime by J.M. Coetzee, and The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt.
- The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. A companion novel to Oryx and Crake.
- The Moon of Gomrath by Alan Garner. The sequel to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen which Ann of Table Talk recommended.
- The Imposter’s Daughter by Laurie Sendell. Thanks to Frances of Nonsuch Book for passing her copy along to me.
- Love and Summerby William Trevor. Longlisted for the Booker prize.
- Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy. I’m trying to get a copy of each of his books. This one I haven’t read, but I haven’t gone wrong yet with Hardy.
Books to Remember
- The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson. A character-driven Swedish novel recommended by Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book.
- Her Fearful Symmetryby Audrey Niffeneger. I liked The Time Traveler’s Wife, and the general buzz about this one has been good. (It certainly has a more intriguing premise than TTW, so I’m optimistic.)