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.