Sunday, February 13, 2011

An Evening with Anita Shreve

We author groupies are rarely disappointed when we finally have an opportunity to meet or listen to one of our favorites. It seems crazy to those outside of the literary/book lover field but I would go to the ends of the earth to listen to an author talk about their books, their thoughts, their disappointments, rejections and successes.

Sanibel Island, Florida, has a public library with a generous endowment. When they have an evening with an author it looks much different from our raucous, 10,000 fans pushing and shoving into a 500 seat auditorium Southwest Florida Reading Festival. They are just two very different modes of entertainment. At Sanibel we are greeted with flutes of champagne and a harpist. Chatter is subdued considering there are probably 200 people in the computer lab/meeting area.

Anita Shreve was much as I had expected; a classy, soft spoken, self-deprecating woman with a sharp wit and sense of humor that emerged unbidden once she took the measure of the audience. I was surprised to learn that she had begun her career in journalism and had lived in Kenya for three years. Interestingly enough, it's been her books set in Africa that most appealed to me; The Last Time They Met and A Change in Altitude, which was the first one I read on my Sony ebook reader.

Ms. Shreve has had an amazing output of novels and no two books are really anything at all alike. She tells her audience that they simply come to her unbidden and that she writes, I love this, long hand on legal pads every day from early morning to mid-day. She shared with us her feelings at reading a devastating review in the New York Times of her historical novel Fortune's Rocks - a story that reminded me how seriously we reviewers must address each book entrusted to us. I don't know that I could ever be a writer as my skin is just not thick enough.

Of course she was vindicated by the call from Oprah and the resulting publicity that catapulted The Pilot's Wife to stardom and a made for TV movie. Honestly, it couldn't have happened to a nicer person. Meanwhile, I received a new book from Library Journal after a 6 week hiatus that had me chomping at the bit. This new novel from Helen Schulman has a decidedly Shrevish feel to it which translates to, I can't put it down! Don is painting baseboards, I think I'll go sit in the sun and read.

1 comment:

Danmark said...

Anita Shreve develops her characters so that you go through their emotions as they do. In "The Pilot's Wife" the story is deeply thought provoking and well written; like all of Shreve's novels, you will not be disappointed.