What We’re Up To This Month:
When I recently mentioned to writer Tania James that Maud Casey will be reading in Easton this month, she said in response, “Ah, amazing, Maud’s so brilliant.” The exchange made me wonder what “brilliant” means, exactly, when the term is applied to writing and to writers, particularly by other writers. But I've spent the last few weeks reading through Maud’s oeuvre in preparation for the event, and I think I understand what Tania meant.
There are books where the plot is the engine—the kind of novel that keeps you up all night reading, dying to know what happens next. But plot isn't the point of Maud’s fiction. Instead, she’s interested in atmosphere, and in interiority. You can see her thinking on the page about the shape of a story and the texture of consciousness. Not only is her writing beautiful, it pushes the boundaries of what a novel can do.
Her latest, City of Incurable Women, reimagines the “hysterical” women of Paris’s famed nineteenth-century Salpêtrière mental asylum. It plays with different perspectives and voices. It weaves medical photographs and documents (some real, some fictionalized) into the narrative. In Maud’s words, it “runs parallel” to the historical record, rather than attempting to correct it. Read it the way you eat chocolate—slowly, one piece at a time, letting it melt on your tongue.
City of Incurable Women is a Talbot County Free Library Book of the Month, with eight print copies ready for check out, plus e-book and audio book available on demand (no waiting, no charge) on Hoopla for anyone who has a library card from an Eastern Shore Library. It’s also available for sale via the Academy Art Museum (special thanks to our friends at the Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore for making copies available). Maud’s talk will begin at 6:00 on October 28, with a reception beforehand at 5:00—enjoy a drink, get your book signed, and gather with other lit-minded neighbors. I hope to see many of you there!
What Else I’m Reading:
This time of year, the semester kicks into high gear and reading time gives way to grading time. Here are the recently released books piling up on my coffee table—the ones I can’t wait to read (by the fire, glass of wine in hand…sigh) in a month or so when things ease up:
Kick the Latch by Kathryn Scanlan
This slim volume (officially called a “novel,” but based on a series of interviews and told in first person, like an oral history) came out on my birthday last month and was my present to myself. Kick the Latch illuminates the strange world of horse racing through the gritty, violent, joyous life of a horse trainer named Sonia. I haven’t read Scanlan’s previous work, but if Leslie Jamison’s New Yorker review is any indication, her’s is exactly the kind of lyric storytelling I love best.
Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
Among her many literary talents, Ng has a special genius for deploying cool, understated prose to narrate wildly dramatic events. In her previous novel, the hugely successful Little Fires Everywhere, this style emphasized an eerie detachment from the pain of others. Her latest work continues that experiment. Our Missing Hearts follows twelve-year-old Bird, a Chinese American boy living in a dystopian America that operates under PACT (the Preserving American Culture and Tradition Act) who goes in search of his mother, a writer whose subversive poem has forced her into hiding. Stephen King’s review in the Times called the book “authentically horrifying”— which, coming from him, is saying something.
Solito by Javiar Zamora
Memoir is my genre, the one I most love to write, read, and teach, and I am always especially eager to read the work of poets who cross over into this nonfiction realm. Poets tend to prioritize language and image over narrative, and the results can be sublime (think Mary Karr, Doreann Ni Ghriofa, Tracy K. Smith, Sherman Alexie, etc.). Zamora’s personal story is extraordinary—at the age of nine, he migrated alone from Guatemala to Arizona—but it’s his prose I’m most excited to lose myself in. Check out this excerpt to see what I mean.
See How They Run @ Easton Cinema
Through October 5
Saoirse Ronan steals the show in this extremely entertaining Agatha Christie spoof. (Bonus for Christie fans: the Cambridge Cozies Book Club is having a Christie-themed meeting this month.)
I Refuse To Be Invisible: An Improvisational Concert by Kentavius Jones, Jordan Stanley, and Ian Trusheim @ Academy Art Museum, Easton
6:00 Saturday, October 08
As the closing act for AAM’s fantastic Fickle Mirror self-portraiture exhibition, local musicians will offer a soulful improvisational musical response to Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s monumental work I Refuse to Be Invisible.
David Sedaris @ Avalon Theater, Easton
7:00 Sunday, October 16
Sedaris’s reading is officially sold out, but a limited number of tickets will be released day of; call or stop by the Avalon on 10/15 or 10/16 if you’re hoping for a last-minute seat.
Book Talk: Kathryn Schulz in Conversation with Casey Cep @ North Caroline High School, Ridgely
7:00 Wednesday, October 26
The Pulitzer-prize winner and New Yorker staff writer will be discussing Lost & Found, her 2022 memoir about losing her father and finding her wife.
Stage Fright @ Avalon Theater, Easton
Wednesday, October 26-Sunday, October 30
Stage Fright is the Shore’s answer to Sleep No More—an original, immersive theater experience based on the local legend of Margeurite, the showgirl ghost who has haunted the Avalon for a century.
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One of our core values is building inclusive community. For that reason, Shore Lit events are always free. To keep them that way, we are grateful to newsletter subscribers like you who help fund our programs. If you have the means and you value our mission of bringing literary authors to the Eastern Shore, please consider a $25 gift to support the Fall 2022 program. If you have more or less to offer, we are grateful for your generosity; no gift is too big or too small. If you aren’t in a position to offer monetary support, you remain a crucial part of this community, and we thank all of you for your consideration.
Shore Lit aims to enhance cultural offerings on the Eastern Shore with free community author events. This newsletter is written by Shore Lit Founder and Director Kerry Folan.