Archive for the ‘Brooklyn Book Festival’ Category

Sixty seven year old Trond has purchased an isolated, spare cabin in the Norwegian woods, planning to live the remainder of his life in solitude with his rescued dog, Lyra.  As Trond fixes up his cabin and gets ready for the oncoming winter, his mind drifts back to the summer of his fifteenth year when he and his father, who he hasn’t seen in 50 years, were in a similar cabin for the summer. His closest neighbor is Lars who, he realizes soon after meeting, he knew during that summer.

This particular summer is pivotal for Trond, as he sees his father, his hero, as both a man of extreme stature as well as a man somewhat diminished.  It is a summer filled with joys. It is around this time that he feels he has a singular bond with his father, one that his sister who remained at home for the summer in Oslo with their mother, cannot replicate. It is during this summer that he gets a glimpse of his father’s war-time Resistance activities as told to him by a neighbor, something his father would never talk about.

There is also tragedy during the summer as a young boy, his friend Jon’s younger brother, is accidently killed in a rifle accident and Trond sees his father with another woman. That summer is the last time Trond would see his father. He never came home.

The spectacular thing about Out Stealing Horses is its subtlety. Readers can visualize Trond in his winter wonderland, trudging through the snow with Lyra or cutting up a fallen birch tree with Lars.  They can visualize fifteen year old Trond working with his father felling trees on his property, looking longingly at Jon’s mother as she brings food to the logging men.  You can picture the river curving around the bend, flowing from Norway to Sweden back into Norway.  All of this is done without blatant similes. It is done with wordsmithing and language and slow but steady writing that draws readers in. The book is also spectacular for what it doesn’t say–about Trond’s father, about Trond’s cabin, about Lars. There are hints, but the reader must ultimately decide for himself.

Out Stealing Horses (the title does have a meaning in the story, but I won’t tell you) won the 2007 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award as well as several other awards. Susan, who reads much more literary works than I do, suggested this book at the Brooklyn Book Festival and I’m glad because it is not “my genre” but it is so worth reading.

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Where can you hear people talk about books and music one minute, mysteries the next and the discontent of Americans soon after?  The Brooklyn Book Festival, of course!

For those of you who remember New York is Book Country, I lamented its demise, hoping beyond hope it would return.  But, alas, that was not to be.  Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 56th Street closed to traffic, filled with new books, old books, mysteries, children’s books.  It was an annual tradition for my daughter and me.

With NYBC no longer, three years ago Susan and I were forced to venture into a foreign country–Brooklyn–to its renowned book festival and we’ve gone ever since.  This year, our first panel was Mary Karr (of Lit fame-Susan loved her memoir) and Nelson George, music critic, discussing music and books and the poetry of music.  Ms. Carr is funny and engaging and these two friends made us smile.  Susan jotted down three or four books they recommended to add to her pile.

Next Walter Mosley and Eoin Colfer discussed mysteries.  An odd coupling, it was like a comedy routine with Colfer being the comic and Mosley the straight man.  I like Mosley’s Fearless Jones series, but it appears Mosley is concentrating on his new series starring Leonid McGill.

The Grand Finale was Wallace Shawn (“Inconceivable!”–yes I watch The Princess Bride but do not love the book), Fran Leibowitz and Deborah Eisenberg discussing why we are discontented.  Three different personalities agreeing on the state of the world.

Susan pushed my reading horizons by suggesting I buy Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson, which I did.  I promise to get to it, after King Lear, which I must read before we see the play in October.

The crowds attending this festival have fostered my belief that interest in good literature will never die and the printed page still has life left in it.

P.S. An essential part of this annual pilgrimage is our walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, rain or shine.  Susan had always wanted to do this and, those of you who know me, know I have a thing for bridges, especially the Brooklyn Bridge and the Bunker Hill Bridge outside of Boston.  Dinner with various children of ours topped off a perfect day.  If you haven’t treated yourself to the Brooklyn Book Festival, put it on your calendar for next year.

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