Sunday, May 23, 2010

Readings and Books

I read a story this cool rainy afternoon at The Writer's Center in Bethesda to a small and intimate group of listeners who braved the dripping rain beside the wonderfully and diversely talented Dan Gutstein, who read a series of variously intense and playful non/fictions from his new book titled Non/Fiction. It's a book to dip into and savor, and it's another I'm adding to my review list for this summer.
The story I read (from Temporary Lives) was The Man on the Veranda, written years ago in the first flush of Garcia Marquez fascination, published in small spiral notebook, also making an Honorable Mention in the Zoetrope Fiction prize (2003 I think). It's the first time I read a story whole, and I was worried about boring my readers to death.

Choosing a story to read at a reading is an interesting exercise--I don't want to keep reading the same story, but it seems like some stories elicit a stronger reaction than others. Balancing the niceties of time constraints with excerpts intending to whet rather than dampen interest in the rest of the work, with being present in the moment and responding to audience reaction while still planning a few things to say, etc. all seems very delicate. Still, The Man... is a story I like, and I learned a few things reading it all the way through aloud like this--one, as one of the audience also advised me later, I don't really need to read every paragraph! to keep a sense of the central narrative alive, and two, each time I rush as I worry about time (in a subterranean attempt to ease the listener) I could actually lose a listener. Lessons to apply to the next reading, I guess.

It was lovely to read with Dan Gutstein though, whom I've shared an office with at GW, and also charmant to run into Mark Wallace, prolific author of poetry and fiction and various other forms, also from (even longer ago) my days of teaching composition and literature at GW. It felt like a GW thing, which was cool, and raised echoes of the last, great reading, in April at GW, with Gina Welch, who read from her very intriguing memoir of living among evangelical Christians in Jerry Falwell country, In the Land of the Believers. (For more on that reading, please see Tess Malone's vibrant blog post in April on the GW English Blog.)

That was a very special reading, for many reasons, not least that I come from as-dedicated and often evangelical Christians in the deep south of India, which seems to bear uncanny resemblance to the deep south here in the US, and read from the one story in Temporary Lives which touches on this (the title story)--not to mention how extraordinary it was reading with Gina, who is amazingly talented and charismatic, and, although it was rather surprising to see the room so packed, it was also nice to end my semester at GW on such a high note. Another book on my list!

For now I'm reading Ariel Sabar's My Father's Paradise : A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq, also a book I discovered on attending a reading at GW--a fascinating memoir of his experiences in Iraq and his re-creation of his father's and other relatives' lives--especially interesting to me because of my (maternal) grandfather's connection with Iraq, a story I am excavating and wanting to write about--after serving in the British Army during World War I he stayed on and lived in Basra and died in Basra, as did my grandmother--another amazing character I want to write about. I'll post a review when I'm done. In addition to catching up to all those posts I wrote in my head for April!

No comments:

Post a Comment