On Author Talks and Why Reading Fiction is Important

I had the pleasure of listening to an author talk at the Central Library the other night.  I wondered if it was worth the trouble to take the C-train downtown instead of hanging out in my pajamas at home like I do every night. Gone are the days of my youth when I would go out dancing after midnight! The author that I was going to see was Barbara Gowdy— she was promoting her new book of fiction, Little Sister.

The audience I noticed was largely older women in groups laughing and talking. Barbara walked onto the stage with two pillows and went on to explain the constant pain she was in for many years, and how she had to write lying down in bed. Her stories were amusing and thoughtful. Once she burped and said, “oops, sorry I burped!” And I thought, what an adorable person! The audience at first was slow for the question and answer period, but soon got on a roll and someone asked her if she regretted anything or wished she had changed something after it was written. She said she realized that everything that she wrote or did, had to happen, and, as a result, the next book was created. I like how she also said that we are all different people at different stages of our lives, meaning perhaps the first book she wrote, that she claims were very serious–was written by a different her. She also discussed how many writer’s families, especially their mothers, don’t actually like their books.

And on the very hot topic of cultural appropriation, Gowdy says about her book The White Bone, she hopes that if some elephants read her book, they won’t be mad that she may have made mistakes in how they actually live their lives. She wrote The White Bone to help people understand the plight of the elephants–but says that she doesn’t think it had any impact at all. She added that one of Trump’s sons hunted and killed elephants for sport.

She also discussed the importance of reading fiction. Her example was that a man who only read cookbooks cheated on his wife with her close friend. He was surprised when everyone was upset and mad at him. If he read fiction Barbara went on to explain, he might have understood these basic truths about how life works. We all enjoyed her story of how her little sister came with her to the hospital to help her when she had a diagnosis of breast cancer. Her sister had a seizure in the hospital, was whisked away to surgery and was fine after. It was like her cancer saved her sister’s life, Gowdy said. An amazing story told by a truly fine storyteller.

I encourage anyone to attend any books talks that you are able. It made for a wonderful evening–it was definitely worth getting out of my PJs for a change.


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