Thursday, May 1, 2014
A Good Time in Twinsburg
Tuesday evening (7-8:30) I spoke to a wonderful group of readers at the Twinsburg Public Library. The library had asked me (you didn't know libraries could talk, did you? and all that insistence on silence from the rest of us!) to speak on the topic "How to Read a Book like a Critic," and I'd anticipated an audience of a dozen or so. There were more than fifty there--including two old friends from Hiram College days, Sue and Rich Pejeau (who now live in Twinsburg).
I ran through a little PowerPoint I'd prepared, a presentation that summarized my "career" as a reader (beginning back in Oklahoma in the late 1940s and early 1950s at our little Carnegie Library, R.I.P.), my career as a writer (from my first published piece in 1971 to the present), and my career as a book reviewer, which commenced in 1997 with a review of a Terry Pluto book about the Browns in Ohio Writer.
Then I listed the principles I try to follow when reviewing/the questions I ask myself (e.g., Who is the audience for this book? Has the writer done the necessary work? What are the writer's biases and preferences? How does this book fit with his/her other work? What do I need to know about the writer? The contexts of the book?).
Then came some fun: We passed out copies of Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" (link to the story), a page-and-a-half tale about a woman who hears that her husband has died in a train accident. Then we talked for a half-hour about how we would prepare to write a review of this story--and what we would say. Only a few had read The Awakening, so I talked about it a little bit (and in the room with me--an authority on that novel, a scholar named Joyce Dyer) and about Chopin's life and career. When she was five, for example, her father died ... in a train accident. Those present made some very interesting comments about the story--things they praised, some they condemned--and they had some great questions, too, about how I go about preparing to review a book, for example.
All in all, time whirled (for me--can't speak for the audience!), and I had some surges of memory about being in front of a class again--something I surrendered with retirement in June 2011. I always loved interactions with students--it was just all that grading I grew to abhor. And the committee meetings. And the ...
Anyway, I had a grand time--was grateful for the opportunity, was touched by much of what I heard.