Monday, March 7, 2011

March of the Authors

I just returned from Tennessee where I visited my parents for a few days, and I was reminded how exasperatingly generous they can be. My father is one of those people who will not let you turn down a gift. I mentioned that I'd been considering getting a Kitchen Aid mixer. It's heading to Boston as we speak, which is great, because I really need to make more delicious pastries from this (P.S., We love you, Joanne Chang. Please come back. Bring pie). I tried to tell him it wasn't necessary, though, and we spent a good five minutes going back and forth. We've had full fights over this sort of thing.

If my family carries on any part of our Hungarian/Italian heritage, it's the culture of hospitality. For as long as I can remember, anyone who ever entered our house left well-fed. When my parents moved, the movers got four square meals and more soda, gatorade and fresh lemonade than they could possibly drink. When two of my friends drove through my hometown while I was out of the country, I suggested they stop at my parents' house. My Mom had a full tray of lasagna and a fresh-made bed ready. This was the guest bed, by the way, which is softer and more comfortable than my parents' bed has ever been.

And I think this is where I get it from--this desire to tell you again and again about our events, to badger you into showing up to see the great authors we've got coming in. I am my father's son, and when I know an event is going to be awesome, this flip switches in my head, and it takes a force of will not to go running through Coolidge Corner, dragging people inside (I'm not above it, I'm warning you).

"Here," I am saying figuratively with a bad accent, "take the Sheri Holman. A perfectly good Sheri Holman. It would be a shame to let her go to waste. Come on. It's good for you. You're a growing boy. You need all the Sheri Holman you can get. Put some meat on that brain. Ah, and for seconds we have some Jasper Fforde. You'll love it. I know you will. Just give him a taste. A little taste. Here, have some more..."

So, forgive me, please. I know what I'm doing and how tiring it can be. But really, you'll love this stuff:

Pro-tip: if you see something published by Grove/Atlantic or one of their imprints, pick it up and begin reading. I don't care what it is. They put out amazing books. And Sheri Holman's Witches on the Road Tonight just proves this rule. It is haunting and vivid and beautifully written. It's a family epic/horror story told by a stylist who can stand toe-to-toe with any high-literary author. And because it's such a mix of genres, I really worry that it might get overlooked, when in fact it does it all so well that it should be treasured by all sorts of readers.

What Douglas Adams did for science fiction, Jasper Fforde has done for the world of literature. He's one of the most playful, funniest, and absurd wordsmiths alive today. Beyond that, his stories are solid detective novels with action, adventure, and cloned dodo birds. Doctor's have been known to keep a copy of The Eyre Affair on hand; if a person can read it and not laugh, their funny bone is broken. (note: books should not actually be used as diagnostic tools...except books of diagnostic medicine).

Half travel-memoir, half survivor story, half mother's narrative, Susan Conley's Foremost Good Fortune will appeal to anyone who has ever felt alienated in a new country or in their own skin, anyone who is or knows a cancer survivor, parents, anyone who just really loves a good true story. I mean, come on, I've done the math. It's like a whole 1.5 books of goodness.

Deb Olin Unferth's Revolution is quite simply the perfect story for anyone who was ever or will ever be nearly twenty, stupid, and in love. It's a startlingly honest tale of foolish idealism. It's wry, sharp, and funny. But it's also tender and full of a longing for purpose, of straining against one's own age and limitations. I finished it yesterday. I would like to read it again very soon.

And she's going to be in conversation with DeWitt Henry, whose own story of growing up, Sweet Dreams, will break your heart in a hundred places. Slower, more meditative than Unferth's memoir, it's like a collection of those stories you ask your parents and your friends for again and again--of pranks and coincidences, lazy summers, and skeletons peaking from their closets.

Popular science books are my guilty pleasure. When I just can't read any more fiction, I pop open a Gladwell or an Ariely and go to town. Joshua Foer, brother of Jonathan Safran Foer and the rest of the ridiculously talented Foer clan (genetic experiment?) has written one of the best reads I've found yet in Moonwalking with Einstein. It's funny, quirky, and full of fascinating facts and studies told in a not-too-brain-taxing way. And it's about how he went from being a normal, forgetful person to the freaking U.S. Memory Champion. If this isn't the most talked about book of the year, I will be flabbergasted. Flabbergasted, I say, and not just because I wanted to use that word.

Then there's the Breakwater Reading Series, which is always exciting and bumping...standing-room-only for tales and poems by new writers who are still so underground we hold the event in our basement (yeah, I know that's where we hold most events, but you get what I'm saying).

And all of that--All of it is just the next two weeks. I mean, surely it's got to slow down after that right? It's not like Hallie Ephron, Paula McClain, Caitlin Shetterly, Harlan Coben, Jacques D'amboise, Steven Schlozman, and Mark Warren are coming after that or anything...oh, wait.

"You liked the first course? Well here comes the second. You really must try some of this Hallie Ephron--perfectly done, I tell you. Just the slightest resistance. Al dente, we say."

Oh, and don't even get me started on dessert--or April, as I like to call it.

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