Michael Cunningham, the LA Central Library, and Skid Row

Last week I made yet another trek out to LA to see an author read, this time for Michael Cunningham's newest novel By Nightfall. It's definitely quite a drive for a 60-90 minute presentation, but I enjoy hearing about different writers' writing processes, how they create characters, who they are currently are reading, etc... I love being around people that are interested in the same types of books as I am and actually give a damn about literature. It's inspiring, and these days, I sure as hell need it.

This particular reading was at the Los Angeles Central Library in the downtown area, which was a delightful treat at 6:30 on a weeknight. Once I was parked
and my sanity somewhat restored, I realized how awesome the location was- absolutely huge, with large windows running through the middle of the library allowing you to see rows and rows of books, as well as beautiful mosaics and light fixtures. Outside, the nighttime view was great; the library is tucked between several skyscrapers- a nice change from my current location.

Anyway, Cunningham did a terrible job reading his own novel- someone needs to teach the man to pause at punctuation, rather than in middle of sentences. Some actual inflection might be nice too. He redeemed himself, though, during the interview portion with a candid discussion of his sexuality and it's impact on his writing ("Admit it, there are some heterosexuals in the audience! Come out of the closet!"), Mad Men references, and an artful ability to be simultaneously both self-deprecating and snobbish.

What I loved most was his discussion, and appreciation, of how "no two readers read the exact same novel." It brought me back to my days as in college, listening to people debate symbolism or the significance of a minor character. The significance of every novel differs depending on the reader and their feelings, past experiences, and perceptions of the world. It takes an author that is secure in his craft, and his readers, to embrace this.

Then I left and got lost in Skid Row. I decided the juxtaposition between that and the Banana Republic Boys at the reading was extremely fitting.

No comments:

Post a Comment