This week there were two author talks at the Parma-Snow Library. The first was Christina Baker Kline, who tells us that she is exhausted after a long flight with a change of planes to get here, and apologizes if she looks bedraggled. She looks bright, young and fresh to me, so either she was over critical of herself or determined to put the proverbial best foot forward even if she was tired.
The presentation of her latest book, A Piece of the World was excellent. The talk included a running slide show of the work of Andrew Wyeth, his paintings and drawings of Christina Olson, the subject of her novel. To add a bit of levity, Kline adds slides of other versions of the famous painting, including one of the horizontal profile of Chris Christy of New Jersey which is anything but flattering to the politician. He looks like a mountain wearing a white shirt and blue pants.
With all of the publicity and showings of the three generation Wyeth artwork, and art history, most people are at least vaguely acquainted with Christina’s World in which a slim dark haired young woman (who was actually 55 years old at the time of the painting) in a pink dress is seated but in the process of crawling (due to a physical handicap caused by a then little known disease) toward her family house; she refused to use a wheelchair for mobility. Wyeth painted that house from inside and out, every possible angle over the years and is actually buried there on the premises with the Olsons, though the Wyeths had their own family plot, according to Kline.
Instead of this book which is only available in hard back, I purchased her previous book, Orphan Train which had been Number One on the New York Times Best Seller List for a full two years, which was a paperback.
The second author to grace our little library in the same week is a teacher from Oberlin College, Dan Chaon (pronounced Shawn). During the question and answer period I resisted asking him about his last name, which I had looked at wondering how to pronounce. The young man who introduced this author was almost more interesting to me than the author, a young poet named Dave with short but ruffled looking hair, as if his grandmother or playful aunt may have just given him a pat on the head so the tufts of hair went this way and that. Mr. Chaon’s book is Ill Will of which he read the first eighteen chapters aloud to us. No, the session was not over the usual hour long, the chapters were a page and a half long each, as he found that cadence worked for his story, but this too was hard back book, so I did not buy it. He’s written several books of short stories and while he goes in the direction of thriller, he is not really of that genre at this point.
I did talk to Dave afterwards asking him what was going on poetically at the South Euclid Library. He is currently their Writer in Residence and is teaching a four week class on poetry for people who do not like poetry. His focus is on the non-creative folks like engineers and accountants and such, I guess trying to give them a different perspective. Perhaps I’ll have to amble out that way, though I have only been to that library once, when the Ohio Poet Laureate was introduced to us. Dave said he was also at that talk. Naturally.