This past summer I went to see Anthony Doerr speak at the Chautauqua Institution along with my mom and baby girl. My mom and I had read All the Light We Cannot See for book club, and had both loved it. We then got to meet him during the book signing. It was a great experience, but also, as you might imagine, a bit fabricated. You wait in line behind hundreds of people, you finally get to meet the author and you get to say the one big thing you’ve been planning out for the last 45 minutes, which happens to be the same thing that half of the people in line before you also said. You get to see this artistic genius feign interest in your ponderings, and then you get the signature. Of course, I’d rather have really picked his brain over coffee, but we can’t have everything. So we settle for the quick chance to say “I loved the book,” and let the next person in line get their signature.
During Doerr’s inspiring talk, he quoted Wislawa Szymborska’s Nobel Lecture from 1996:
We all use phrases like ‘the ordinary world,’ ‘ordinary life,’ ‘the ordinary course of events’ … But in the language of poetry, where every word is weighed, nothing is usual or normal. Not a single stone and not a single cloud above it. Not a single day and not a single night after it. And above all, not a single existence, not anyone’s existence in this world.”
This is the reality behind literary art. This is how new art is constantly being created despite the ocean of words and pages already flooding our library shelves. There is always something new to say.
Doerr is one of those talented people who has found a way connect words poetically to form characters with their own individual existences, their own story, and then weave them together into an interesting narrative. It was an truly an honor to meet him.
If you haven’t noticed yet, I like to really let a book stew for awhile. I am no microwave reader. I am a busy mama who loves to read, but also likes to leave a lot of time for reflection, hence the tag-line “moving slowly through the dog-eared pages of the world’s best stories.” I take joy in moving slowly, especially with a good book.
Next Up: The Count of Monte Cristo (my 3rd time around)