Monday, November 5, 2007

Texas Book Festival, Writers on Reading

Session 1, Writers on Reading: Valerie Martin and Jane Hamilton, Russell Perreault (moderator)

[I arrived plenty early to this one (I was worried that it would be packed, as free books were part of the deal), despite leaving 25 minutes late. Anthony had awoken, and I decided to get him diapered and started on his breakfast so it would be one less thing for DH to manage without caffeine, and in his state of Ick-fighting. I finished preparing the books I’d be releasing with all the BookCrossing information I could manage, and ate my breakast.]

Jane Hamilton started the discussion off by opining that the book festival raised Austin to the “highest state of grooviosity” she knew. She said that she doesn’t think of herself as a genre writer, but if pressed, says that she writes thrillers. Hamilton also talked about her experiences with Heart of Darkness, and admitted that authors sometimes could not answer the discussion questions in reader’s guides.

Valerie Martin opened her portion of the talk by sharing a story illustrating how some people are nervous about talking to authors, and suggested to book group leaders that they provide plenty of good food and drink if an author comes to talk to their group. She also defined fiction as a conversation between the author and all the books they have read before, and directed our attention to specific novel mentions in books--the author is really telling you “go read this” (also). One good discussion topic in book group is what other books to which the author leads your reading. She explains further that novelists write from a disagreement with something that another author has written, that everything an author has to say about the book is in the book (this is why she feels strange talking about her books).

A few more points the Hamilton had to make (in response to questions) include: if an author reads while writing, they run risk of incorporating the style and voice of the other author (Martin agrees about fiction, but acknowledges that one always has non-fiction research to do, but that this doesn’t interfere--Hamilton concurred), that her characters always evolve while she’s writing them, and that writers are either never really alone while working, or are completely comfortable with it.

Works and people cited or written by the authors:
Trespass (VM)
Light of the Piazza (novella and movie)
Sephora and the Slave Girl (Willa Cather)
Elizabeth Taylor (author, not actress)
Disgrace (Coetzee)
Property (VM?)

Tomorrow is storytime and errand day, and voting day. I’ll write up another talk from Saturday after I’ve wound down from all that. Oh--good news--my aunt is rallying, and it looks like she may have some more time with us yet after all. Our family will probably pay her a special visit when we go out to see our new nephew in December.

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