Bill Roorbach is an anomaly. Not because he genre-hops between fiction and nonfiction, or because he delayed his writing career so he could tour the world as a musician. Not because his new book, Life Among Giants, is his ninth book and third novel, is already in its third printing and in talks to become a TV series à la Mad Men, but for the art world of the American seventies. Bill Roorbach is an anomaly because he’s just so nice. Continue reading
In an event that showcased fiction, nonfiction, poetry, performance, and, um, “found art,” several of the Twin Cities’s youngest and most promising writers stood before an unexpectedly large audience and gave a taste of what’s to come. In all, eight candidates for the degree of Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the University of Minnesota presented a reading of works in progress at Magers & Quinn Booksellers on Friday, November 16, 2012. Continue reading
A large crowd squeezed into the poetry corner of Magers & Quinn Booksellers to hear Karen Thompson Walker read from critically acclaimed The Age of Miracles on Thursday, July 26, 2012. A former book editor at Simon & Schuster,Walker was extremely forthcoming with the entire writing process of her debut novel. Even though she was sure to emphasize how she had braced herself for rejection letters and how lucky she felt to finally be standing in front of a group of readers of her book, I am sure an entire crop of Twin Cities’s editorial interns and editorial assistants found new hope in getting that manuscript they are writing with every free minute published to praise and positive reviews.
It was evident that Walker is classy, sophisticated, and well-spoken, but she is also humble and friendly. It was like she wanted us to like her, and I appreciated that. Walker read the first chapter and a half from the book, which gave a clear portrait of life before “the slowing,” but with the unsettling voice of someone who has already experienced its effects. “The slowing” refers to the earth’s rotation gradually slowing, thus making the days longer. Gravity becomes slightly stronger—birds begin to fall from the sky, baseballs travel shorter distances, airplanes are no longer the same. Another effect of “the slowing” is its influence on the migration of whales: the whales begin to beach themselves.
It is on a beach spotted with dying whales that the audience was introduced to the true story of The Age of Miracles, that of an eleven-year-old girl trying to grow up in a world turned on its head. In the second section Walker read, narrator Julia accompanies the boy she’s been adoring from afar to the beach. While the scene gives us snippets of the trauma the rest of the world is experiencing, we also see into the mind of a girl on the verge of adolescence. Julia lets us in on thoughts such as, “I was the girl walking with him,” and “I was a little bit in love. I had spent an entire afternoon with Seth Moreno.” For me, this was the best part, the juxtaposition of the concerns of an average eleven-year-old girl in love and the shocking effects of “the slowing.” But there’s also some science in a book of such feeling. Walker consulted an astrophysicist doing his graduate work to keep her story realistic, even if it took her a while to muster up the courage to fact-check the conceit she had conceived while writing for fun every day before work.
As much as I love attending all kinds of readings at all kinds of venues, I have to admit I especially loved this reading. It’s no surprise I feel comfortable at Magers & Quinn—I worked there for almost a year, and I try to drop in every few weeks or so, but this reading was co-sponsored by the lovely duo of Hazel & Wren (Amanda Wray and Melissa Wray respectively)—literary bloggers, writers, graphic designers, letter press printers, and anything-else-creative extraordinaires. (Check out their stellar interview with Walker here.) While introducing the author, the
duo summed up their excitement in partnering with Magers & Quinn to host Walker in a few sweet words: “Real people and an actual bookstore.” I loved hearing these words from two fierce forces in the literary virtual world. I also swooped up an original Hazel & Wren letter press bookmark specially printed for the reading. Smartly, it reads, “We were here,” a quote from Walker’s novel.
I have yet to read The Age of Miracles in its entirety, but I am definitely looking forward to it.
Were you There? Have something to add, or a different take on this event? Chime in on the comments below, or send us an email at LitSeen.Mpls@gmail.com! Be sure to check the schedule to the right and the Twin Cities Literary Calendar and be at the next LitSeen attended event. See you around!
The globetrotting comics-journalist Guy DeLisle stopped by Magers & Quinn Booksellers on Tuesday, May 1 2012 to share some of his life expeirences, provide insight into his drawing process, and to promote his new book Jerusalem: Chronicles of the Holy City (Drawn & Quarterly).
How does an author read from a graphic novel? Do they describe the image in words, or does an audience member need to have a copy of the book to follow along? Also, what if the author writes in French, as Delisle does? Though some of his work has been translated into as many as twelve different languages (and Drawn & Quarterly’s new edition of Jerusalem is in English), most of the work Delisle discussed included dialogue penned in French. Fortunately, he’d developed a format that overcame both of these obstacles, and Delisle turned in one of the more charming, entertaining, and impressive readings I’ve attended.
Using a multimedia layout, Guy Delisle (pronounced, adorably, “Gee De-Lee”) didn’t read an excerpt from the book, as readers typically will. Instead, he gave a decades-spanning recount of how he became the specific artist he is today: from his beginnings as an animator, which required him to travel all over the world for short-term contracts, to his daily habit of sketching notes, which developed into the autobiographical travelogues eventually published by L’Association in Quebec, such as Shenzen, Pyongyang, and Chroniques Birmanes. For each of these publications, Delisle showed slides of sketches and final images from the books, discussing his experience of drawing them, and focusing their biographical significance rather than the narrative within the book.
The question of biography vs. journalism was a prominent theme of his talk. As he explained, “For journalists, when there is an explosion, they go there to write because this is the hot story. For me, when there is an explosion, I don’t go there!” He is a visitor to these places, and his work simply describes the experience of being a foreigner in a new place—more specifically, it describes the experience of being a Canadian-born, French-speaking, infant-toting, comics-authoring foreigner consciously creating a travelogue about the place he is visiting. One panel from Jerusalem is a drawing of his own hand holding a sketchbook on which the illustrated version of himself considers a half-finished image. His work is by no means objective: it is a lesson in subjectivity.
The reading was set up in Magers & Quinn‘s smaller location, tucked between the poetry and popular fiction sections. Were it not for the space needed by the projector screen, the audience was large enough that it would have justified use of the room’s main space, where larger audiences have a better chance of finding a sight-line. The bookstore is one of the Twin Cities’s most consistent and valuable venues for readings, but it has been my experience that their events are often hindered by the lack of a devoted reading space. This one was no different, as people had to line up between aisles and crane their necks to see.
Delisle’s talk lasted about 45 minutes, during which the capacity crowd sat attentively, responding to his charming humor and rapt by his French accent. (“I am from Quebec but I am more French,” he explained. ”I have the French accent now. When I go home, they explain to me what is maple syrup.”) As an artist, his work is intriguing, but as a person, his life is fascinating: in that 45 minutes he casually mentioned living and/or working in Canada, France, Germany, China, Vietnam, North Korea, Burma, Ethiopia, Rio De Janeiro, and, of course, Jerusalem. Though, he did admit he might be slowing down as far as travel goes. ”Jerusalem will be my last book of this sort,” he declared in the Q+A session. ”The kids are too big now, and I want to do something new. Four books like this, it’s the same themes… culture differences, politics, the children, humanitarian work.” Next, Delisle plans to turn his attention homeward, both in the sense that he’s working on a project about his relationship with his son, as well as in the sense that he’s looking forward to getting back to Quebec, to seeing his home city as an outsider. Maple syrup, anyone?
For a nice little video of Delisle’s method, check out this video. Were you at this event? Have a different take on this event? Chime in on the comments below! Be sure to check the schedule to the right and the Twin Cities Literary Calendar and be at the next LitSeen attended event. See you around!