On January 23,1923, Deb Nance, blogger at Readerbuzz, and close friend and I headed to “H Town” (Houston) to attend the Margaret Root-Brown Reading Series, Inprint’s presentation of two contemporary novelists reading from their current works and being interviewed. Deb has had season tickets for years now, but this is my first year to participate. We have heard Poet Laureates, Nobel Prize for Literature winners, and several outstanding authors (and interviewers) already this season.
We drove up to Emanu El, a venue I had never been to before, excited about seeing in person the authors of The Book of Goose, Yiyun Li and Matthew Salesses, author of The Sense of Wonder.
Li read the beginning of her book so that the audience could “hear” the voices of the two women characters of the novel at the age of thirteen. Her book is a narrative based on the strong friendships of women which have lasted since childhood beginnings. The two girls are discussing how to “grow” happiness. One can see that these are not two ordinary girls, but ones who think profound thoughts and share them with each other.
Salesses, on the other hand uses the metaphor of basketball as a symbol for life. He was a Houstonian and a product of the Imprint workshops and grants, as well as an alumnus of the University of Houston’s Creative Writing program. His novel, The Sense of Wonder, has been described as “full of swagger and heart.” It is somewhat autobiographically based.
The two novels were extremely different, but the interview and the interplay of ideas between the two novelists kept me rapt. Friendships are a common theme, but the friendships in these novels were under very different circumstances and between very different characters. I wondered if the two authors would have anything in common. Both novels deal with one making his/her life what he or she thinks is possible. Timeless characters in The Book of Goose offset the team/basketball friendship of the young man in Wonder, but in the developing of both the plots and characters, these two novels encouraged the reader to think along the same lines and even draw similar conclusions. The two authors complemented each other, and sometimes described writing processes and techniques that were totally unalike.
It was a night out that grew our minds and fed our souls–a night to remember.