Posted by: hannah jo | October 13, 2009

Librarian Heaven

Last week I attended readings by two of my favorite authors, within the same week that I had read their most recent books. In other words, I was in librarian heaven. Or, as Kenneth suggested, it was a librariangasm.

First, Lori, Joe, Andy, and I saw Sherman Alexie at Town Hall on Tuesday night, and all four of us were blown away. Alexie, currently promoting War Dances, his new book of short stories and poetry, started by reading a poem called “Ode to Mix Tapes,” which made me squeal with glee. The evening was built on a mix tape metaphor — a little of this, a little of that, tied together by music performed by Sean Nelson, formerly of Harvey Danger. It worked beautifully. Alexie would read a piece of prose or a poem and then leave the stage. Then, Nelson would play a song from the ’80s (requested by Alexie) on the piano and sing. Tracey Ullman’s “They Don’t Know,” Madonna’s “Borderline,” and Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me” were standouts. Alexie told lots of personal stories and jokes, also, of course, not from the book. Damn, Sherman Alexie is funny. But, he’s also honest about tough topics like race and privilege and makes you wince, which is a good thing. Oh, and just so you know — that man can wear the hell out of a nice suit.

The adorable Nick Hornby signs books at the Central Library

The adorable Nick Hornby signs books at the Central Library -- Photo by Joe Mabel

On Friday, I saw Nick Hornby read from his new book Juliet, Naked at the Central Library. He was adorable. Totally adorable. Funny, feisty, and inspiring. Hearing him read from Juliet, Naked made me appreciate it even more, but it was the Q&A session that made the evening so wonderful. He gave thoughtful answers to questions he must get terribly sick of hearing when he’s on a book tour. He didn’t like a couple of questions, though, which turned out hilariously. One woman asked a big, long question about common themes running through his work, with the term “excessively sentimental” stuck right there in the middle of her question. Hornby grabbed right onto that when it was time for him to respond and it was awesome:  “Excessively sentimental, huh?” Then he threatened to run up to the row where she was sitting and fight it out with her. “So, you’re basically saying that I’ve written The Waltons fifteen times?” Then he gave a fantastic explanation of how he prefers to include some type of hope and redemption in his work, rather than writing books full of misery and gloom. Then he said, “Good night, John Boy!”

Another person asked about the presence of “man-child” characters in his books, basically immature men. Again, Hornby took exception with that description and even admitted that he’s starting to get irritated with that description of characters like Rob in High Fidelity. He said he wondered why people assume that if a 35-year-old man has interests other than marriage and a family or in addition to marriage and a family, he’s immature. Hornby said that he knew 35-year-old men who gave up their interests — their books and their albums — because they thought they had to and then they turned boring and unhappy. I was glad Hornby pushed back on some of these questions. He did it gracefully and with humor, but he also did it with honesty, which I loved.
The Nick Hornby event was a huge success for the library and Elliott Bay Books, who sold plenty of books at the event. The Microsoft Auditorium was absolutely packed. My friend David did a stellar job of hosting. Linda did a great job of promoting it. I was so proud to be part of the library staff, even though I was just there as a fan. It was librarian heaven.

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