A doubleheader of a reading took place at Magers & Quinn last Wednesday, September 18 2013. Debut novelist Eric Lundgren read from The Facades, and Kathryn Davis read from her seventh novel, Duplex. Each of these books has been getting some ridiculously good press lately–Kathryn Davis’s book earned a full page review in the New York Times, and The Facades received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly–so it was no surprise that the house was packed. A bookseller from Magers introduced the pair, explaining that Lundgren would read first and then Davis, and then the authors would share a Q&A session afterward. She continued, “This reading is somewhat special, because I just learned that Kathryn Davis was a teacher of Eric Lundgren’s at Washington University.”
Lundgren, a native Minneapolitan, took the podium–a skinny, bearded, and be-spectacled young man in a plaid shirt and skinny tie, drooping pants and sneakers–and elaborated on what it was like to read with his former professor. “Coming back to this bookstore, where I grew up browsing the stacks, and reading with someone like Kathryn Davis, it reminds me of going to a show at First Avenue. You know? You buy your ticket to see Sonic Youth or someone, and then there’s this fine print, like, ‘plus special guests, Throbbing Gristle!’ No offense to Throbbing Gristle fans. But I’m like the Throbbing Gristle of this reading.”
Lundgren read the first chapter of his book, which is a Calvino-esque absurdist mystery set in the fictional Midwestern city of Trude. Davis followed suit, reading from the introductory chapter of her “novel of fantastical suburbia.” Each of these passages highlighted works of stupendous imagination, with promises of deeper mysteries within–though not of the whodunnit variety. “I don’t want to suggest that this is the kind of book where everything gets neatly explained,” said Lundgren in the Q&A. Someone familiar with Duplex asked Davis about her writing process, because “as I read it became clear that I’d missed a lot–things appear in the early chapters but you don’t know the significance of them until later.” Each book unveils the peculiarities of its own universe, those defining details that aren’t always visible at a glance. That each of these titles also utilizes themes of architecture and buildings in their work helped make the pairing an intuitive and rewarding evening.
A quick note about the audience: this was a curious and informed bunch, as the Q&A would have continued as long as the authors let it, with fascinating questions for each of these fascinating authors. Davis’s book is published by the local Graywolf Press, and many of the staff turned out–it was nice to see Marisa Atkinson, Erin Kottke, Steve Woodward, Casey Peterson, Jeff Shotts, Leslie Koppenhaver, and publisher Fiona McCrae all supporting their author by attending the reading (and later standing in the autograph line). I’m not sure how many publishing houses can say that the majority of their staff attend their author’s readings: just one more testament of why the Twin Cities are an exceptional place for the literarily inclined.
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 to be at the next LitSeen.org attended event.