One of the things I'm love-love-loving about my new hometown is the bookish community that lives here. I've joined two book clubs and gotten to know some of the staff at the ever-incredible, well-curated indie in town, Curious Iguana. I've joined the (very large) public library. And this week, I attended the kind of author event I've always longed for without knowing what I was longing for: Ann Patchett (indie bookstore owner and bestselling author of such novels as Bel Canto and State of Wonder) and Maureen Corrigan (NPR anchor, book reviewer, and author of last year's So We Read On) in conversation.
This wasn't an "author talk." Patchett and Corrigan are friends (a fact that Patchett seems thrilled about, and yet disappointed because it means Corrigan won't review any of her future books), and so watching the two on stage, tucked in wingback armchairs, discussing books and storytelling and writing and privilege and imagination was like watching someone's afternoon tea time, only with an audience.
Patchett and Corrigan were charming and interesting and witty and bold; I expect that some of the questions they raised for each other (Is there a limit on what an author can right about? Can Patchett, for example, write about the African-American experience?) will continue to stew in my brain and ultimately become fodder for a future post. But in the meantime, I figured I'd share with the world the books they mentioned specifically and recommended to the audience*:
Deep Down Dark, by Hector Tobar: Patchett recommended this one as the first NPR Fresh Air book club selection. I'll admit it's a title I likely would have passed over if not for the resounding recommendations coming from the stage last night.
H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald: Both women enthusiastically recommended this story, with Corrigan adding that even though it's a subject you think wouldn't appeal to a general audience, it's lyrical and wonderful and not to be missed.
Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed: Patchett mentioned that Wild wasn't really to her taste (which is why I've put off reading it for so long; I can't bear to be disappointed), but that Tiny Beautiful Things was surprising and challenging in the depths to which Strayed would go to explore questions and answers alike. I couldn't agree more, of course; anyone who knows me knows how strong my love for TBT is.
Being Mortal, by Atul Gwande: Another Patchett pick, in the context of her father's recent death after a long illness. She recommended it to anyone and everyone, because, as she reminded us, we're all mortal, after all. In the same breath, she recommended Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant, by Roz Chast, as a companion read.
Last Night at the Lobster, by Stewart O'Nan: Corrigan recommended this one to Patchett, and then to the audience as a whole. It's a novella about the last night before a Red Lobster restaurant closes, and where everyone is going from there. This came up in the context of a discussion about novels that center on work. (Patchett also mentioned And Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris, a book I absolutely adore.)
The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro: Both women talked about this book and how dazzled they were by it; both also mentioned how wonderful it was to go into the story blind, reading a galley with no cover art, no blurbs, no publisher description. Isn't that a rare and wonderful thing?
Get In Trouble, by Kelly Link: This was a Patchett recommendation (Corrigan hadn't read it, at least not yet). She didn't say much about it beyond that she liked the stories, but let's face it: that's enough for me at this point.
Three Dog Life, Abigail Thomas: Mentioned in passing, and I didn't catch what it was about at first, but reading the blurb now has me intrigued (and then some).
The evening ended with a push to support local indie bookstores (Curious Iguana!) and your local public library:
"Your public library is the very best example of this country's democracy in action." Ann Patchett continues to be the coolest.— Kerry McHugh (@kerryamchugh) March 24, 2015
*Descriptions, recommendations and summaries are my own words, not Patchett's and Corrigan's, and written based on the best of my memories from the evening... so apologies to Patchett and Corrigan if I've misrepresented your intent here in any way
You can get more book recommendations from Ann Patchett at the Parnassus Books blog. You can get more book recommendations and reviews from Maureen Corrigan on NPR's Fresh Air.