This past Monday I had the chance to see Jennifer Egan and Jeffrey Eugenides do a reading at the 92nd St. Y. in Manhattan (a truly awesome place for readings). First it was dinner with two bookish friends at a Turkish restaurant around the corner from the Y., and then we headed into the crowd to find our seats at the sold-out event. Egan read a passage from A Visit From the Goon Squad first — a fairly lengthy passage that took her a half hour or so — and then Eugenides read from The Marriage Plot, and then they answered a few questions from the audience (thankfully these were questions screened by the event organizers — no worry that someone was going to ask something stupid). Both readings were funny and made the audience regularly laugh out loud. This is interesting to me because I don’t remember ever laughing at Goon Squad when I read it, not even silently laughing to myself, although I do remember the tone being light, and I’ve since read the relevant sections from The Marriage Plot and didn’t find myself laughing there either. But when someone reads out loud, somehow it’s different. The humor stands out more. It helps that Egan and Eugenides were skilled readers, but even if they had a flatter reading style, we probably would still have laughed. Generally when I see authors, I prefer to hear them speak about their writing rather than read from it, but this is an argument for listening to a book read aloud now and then.
The only mildly disappointing part of the evening was that I didn’t get my books signed because the line was too long and would have required that I take a late train home on a Monday night, which didn’t seem like a good idea. But perhaps I’ll see them another time.
On another note entirely, I’ve been glued to my twitter feed all day looking for updates on the Occupy Wall Street protests going on today. Who knows what will happen with the movement in the long run, but for now, I think it’s wonderful that so many people are out there exercising their right to protest. A couple weekends ago when I was in Manhattan to see the NY Public Library exhibit, I also wandered down to Zucotti Park to see what the place looked like. That day, it was thoroughly peaceful and happy. There was a police presence, but the police seemed to be chatting with the tourists, mostly. The protesters were playing music and holding meetings and handing out buttons and flyers. It was great. What’s not so great is the raid that kicked everybody out and the destruction of the OWS library, or The People’s Library:
There’s something very wrong about police destroying thousands of books, isn’t there?
And now I’ll close with the meme that has been doing the blog rounds lately (seen most recently at Ms. Musings):
1. The book I’m currently reading: The Marriage Plot, which I started on the train ride home from the reading. I just finished up the first section, which takes place at Brown University, and from what I’ve heard of the book, I think we’re off to India next. I’m enjoying it very much. I’m also in the middle of Mariana, which got interrupted by The Marriage Plot. I usually don’t read two novels at once (unless one of them is an audio book), but I didn’t want to wait to start the Eugenides. I’m afraid I’m not giving Mariana its due.
2. The last book I finished: How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard. I totally loved this book. I’ll write a post on it if I can manage it, but for now I’ll say it was a thoroughly enjoyable meditation on what reading and non-reading really mean and how the two aren’t nearly as different from each other as we generally imagine. I didn’t buy everything Bayard had to say, but that didn’t matter; I still loved it. There was something exhilarating about the freedom with which he explored the topic.
3. The next book I want to read: Next up will be Wild Life by Molly Gloss for the Slaves of Golconda. But I also need to choose a nonfiction book soon, and I have no idea what that will be. I’ve heard a couple interviews with Joan Didion lately, so maybe I will pick up a collection of her essays. Or perhaps one of my theoretical works on the essay genre, or perhaps a Janet Malcolm or Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse, which, if you have read The Marriage Plot, you will understand.
4. The last book I bought: The Marriage Plot, but also the third Julia Spencer-Fleming, Basho’s Narrow Road to the Interior, Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing, and Ryan Van Meter’s If You Knew Then What I Know Now. Plus a whole raft of other books because I’ve gone a little crazy with the book buying this year.
5. The last book someone gave me: Laura Miller’s The Magician’s Book, about C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia. Fabulous book.