Saturday, March 13, 2010

An Evening with Elizabeth Strout

My librarian in crime, Maryellen, very fortunately has an "in" at the rather exclusive Sanibel Public Library, (should one use the words exclusive and public library in the same sentence?) and was able to score two tickets to a high class meet and greet with Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout on Thursday evening. In unusual fashion for me, I began reading Olive Kitteridge just the other night, after watching the paperback languish on my computer desk for about a year now, and have been burning through it.
WOW! I know, what an unprofessional assessment, but words fail me. I love this book and I love Olive. I know this woman. Except for her size, she is my stepmother Edith; smart, tough, difficult, misunderstood, often judgmental, then suddenly surprisingly soft.

And now, having listened to her talk with us for over an hour just as if we were all hanging around the kitchen having coffee, or perhaps something a little stronger,  I love Elizabeth Strout too. I watched her sitting in her chair on the stage, being introduced in superlatives, and looking a tad formidable. Then she got up to speak, slowly removed the glasses that all of us "of a certain age" are taxed with, and her thousand watt smile lit up the room dropping 20 years from her face.

I loved her because of her honesty. I loved her because she's been writing since she was 4 years old, laughing at the perception that she was an "overnight success." I loved her because she adamantly defends her sentences, obsesses over their structure, turning in manuscripts that require little or no editing. I love her because she agrees that words DO matter, that fiction is necessary and will always be so. I love that she cares for her readers so much that she'd prefer to hear that she looked into someone's soul (please don't think about Bush and Putin here), than to receive a Pulitzer Prize, but still takes pride in the prize. I love her sense of humor.

I know that I'm late to this party but, if for some reason you haven't read Elizabeth Strout yet, run, don't walk, to your nearest library or bookstore and pick up anything by her. Maryellen's favorite was Amy and Isabelle. Abide With Me sounds intriguing. I'm definitely thinking that I'll be discussing Olive Kitteridge with our group in the near future.

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