Tag Archives: novels

Book Nerd Alert! Come See Dave Eggers and Marlon James Talk Books in St. Paul

We are serious about our books here in the Twin Cities. For a woman who loves books as much as I do, that is good news.

Imagine my excitement when it was announced that Marlon James and Dave Eggers would be talking books in St. Paul. You can still buy tickets for the Thursday February 4th event here.

The event benefits the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute, an after school program that helps students aged 6-18 work on their homework. The nonprofit focuses particularly on writing and gives kids the opportunity to publish their own books. According to an article in The Star Tribune, the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute is somewhat based on the “network of writing and tutoring programs that Eggers co-founded, called 826 National.”

Despite his work with 826 National, Eggers is a polarizing writer. Many people find him arrogant. He did, after all, write a book called, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I get that doesn’t come across as particularly humble.

I also understand the need for arrogance as a writer. You have to think your writing is better than the writing of most other people. You also need to have enough ego to survive the inevitable series of rejections.

So Eggers’ ego has never bothered me. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was the first Eggers book I read, and it remains one of my favorite books. And I mean favorite books ever.

I read it after losing my brother, and I found it funny and beautiful and devastating. To me, it was an honest book about what it is like to lose someone (or two someones in Eggers’ case) you love.

When you lose someone, you try to mourn and not become overwhelmed by sadness. You also need to go on living. You need to find the joyful and funny moments when you can. This is what I love about A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Eggers shows himself laughing and crying and f*cking his way through a completely devastating situation. It is messy and at times awkward. But so is life, and so too is death.

Eggers has also written other books I’ve loved. Two of his other equally compelling and devastating creative nonfiction books are Zeitoun and What Is the What. Zeitoun follows the Zeitoun family through Katrina, and What Is the What is the story of a young Sudanese refugee, one of the so-called Lost Boys of Sudan. The Circle is one of Eggers’ fiction works, and it is basically a modern day 1984. The book is a disturbingly, realistic scenario of how technology could change our lives and not for the better.

James just received the Man Booker Prize for his historical fiction novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings. The novel is set in Jamaica and depicts the attempted assassination of Bob Marley. James lives in Minneapolis and teaches at Macalester College.

I have only just started A Brief History of Seven Killings, and I haven’t read James’ other novels. But so far, I can attest that James is an incredible writer.

So when I saw the event with Eggers and James pop up on Facebook, I knew I had to go. I don’t go to nearly as many readings as I should, but when a favorite author reads, I get there.

So if you’re around the area and a fan of these authors, I suggest you get there too. And oh yeah, it’s for a good cause. Nothing better than that for a book nerd like me.

This week’s video is “People Got A Lotta Nerve” by Neko Case.

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How to Find Beauty On a Dusty Shelf

I have a friend who always buys The Catcher in the Rye when he sees it. I mean, I like The Catcher in the Rye just fine. It’s just never been one of those books for me. But I can’t say I blame him for feeling that way about a book.

Seeing one of my favorite books sitting on the shelf alone, unpurchased stirs a feeling in me. And I’m not talking about seeing your favorite book at Barnes & Noble (although God help B&N.) I’m talking about seeing your favorite book at a thrift store, consignment shop, or any other used bookseller. I’m even talking about Half Price Books. (I love HPB.)

Every time you’re at one of these places, it’s like a treasure hunt. Sometimes you come up with nothing. Other times you score big. I love to search for the good stuff.

My mom started taking me to antique stores when I was about four, so I have long loved this type of treasure hunt. And I don’t go as much as I used to, but I like to still keep my hand in.

Last night, I stopped at a thrift store, looking for a new dress. (This place has nice clothes, like really good stuff. It is rare for me to leave empty-handed.) I decided against a chambray jumpsuit (mistake?) and went with an olive green dress.

Then I walked by the book section. I figured there was time and money for a peek. I chased some poor guy past the science/mystery section to the fiction. It isn’t a bookstore, so things are a little jumbled. I stumbled across The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. It is one my favorite books. I read it first in undergrad.

I scored The God of Small Things at the thrift store for $1.04!

I scored The God of Small Things at the thrift store for $1.04!

It is set in India. The novel jumps back and forth in time and between characters, but the main conflict is how the caste system divides the characters. It is similar, but not the same, to the way race and class divide Americans. It is a beautifully, written book, but what moves me the most is the ending.

SPOILER ALERT. The lovers don’t beat the odds and end up happily ever after. At the end of the book, it flashes back to them at the start of everything, knowing they can’t survive together, but wanting it so badly anyway. Here they are defiant in their love, here they are not thinking of the future, here they are thinking only of the next time, here they are thinking only of tomorrow.

 

“He folded his fear into a perfect rose. He held it out in the palm of his hand. She took it from him and put it in her hair.”
The God of Small Things

 

The beauty of this moment always struck me, as well as Roy’s defiance in ending the book this way. She too is refusing to give into outdated ideas about caste and who a person can love.

I saw the copy, hesitated briefly, and then added it to my stack. I have a copy at home, but I couldn’t leave this book alone on the shelf. I needed it come home with me. I wanted to make sure this beauty was passed on to someone else.

 

 

This week’s video is “Bachelorette” by Bjork. If you haven’t watched a Bjork video, I seriously recommend you check this one out. She makes some of the most delightful and astonishing videos. And weird, the videos are so beautifully weird. Oh and this lyric, “I’m a tree that grows hearts/One for each that you take.” Now that, my friends, is some beauty.

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