Thursday, July 10, 2008

author homecoming

Ford, McGuane, Harrison, and moderator Bill Castanier

Three American authors came home to their alma mater tonight, my university. All three graduated from the English department where I am the academic adviser. No, I'm not that old, I wasn't their adviser. And oh, I got my BA in this department too. It was fun to hear them talk about their antics in Morrill Hall back in the 1960s though.

They've written over 50 books among them, and I have read ONE: True North by Harrison, set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

They made us laugh and quoted a lot of other authors tonight, but a few lines I can recall:

  • If we knew what went on between women and men, we wouldn't need literature. (Ford)
  • When I read 'Alice in Wonderland' as a kid I felt that I'd been struck by lightning. (Harrison)
  • Pundits think talking is thinking. (Harrison)
  • I became a writer to justify my reading. (McGuane)
  • When asked what the Pulitzer meant to him, Ford said: Philip Roth had an off year.

I think that as a representative of the English department where these guys studied I should probably read a couple more of their books, eh what? I mean, they're good. I hear Jim Harrison is France's favorite American author.


John Ackerson said...

Like many other men today, I have somehow navigated away from reading much fiction in my adult life, though as a teen, I devoured many great stories.

I do always envision getting back to it someday, but for now I am too fascinated with what's 'going down' in the real world. I still have a special place in my heart, and admire good/career writers though.

Oh, I just recalled I was given as a gift at Christmas several years ago a novel by Margaret Atwood (household name up here - Canadian author) "Oryx and Crake" which I devoured quickly and with much sinful pleasure - recommended!

Andrew said...

For McGuane, I'd recommend 92 in the Shade. Ford, The Sportswriter.

Incidentally, it was McGuane who talked about Alice In Wonderland.

Ruth said...

John, it's interesting you put it that way, 'like many other men' because I am in the same boat as you, but I don't disagree that women all around me seem to be reading novels. I am a novel reading loser. And like you, I read non-fiction - books, web sites, articles.

Margaret Atwood is a household name here too, in fact she is also coming to MSU this fall! Inge and I will be going to hear her too. I think I will read "Oryx and Crake" before then, thank you! I'd better get crackin' because I just got Anne Michaels' 'Fugitive Pieces' from the library based on a friend's 'promise me you will read this book' recommendation.

^ ^ ^

Andrew, thank you for the correction! Could have sworn that was Harrison, but now I remember you are right.

Thanks for the recs!

I wish Ford had gotten more words in last night.

Loring Wirbel said...

For McGuane, I'd second the idea of 92 in the Shade, add Nothing But Blue Skies, and add that Panama got needlessly skewered by the critics. My only problem is that the latter book had that partial Jimmy Buffett feel from Tom being married to Buffett's sister. I'm not a parrothead. Tom's also got way too stuck in Montana provincialism in recent years.

Sharon said...

I haven't read Atwood's Oryx & Crate yet so I'm in no position to say this, none the less if I was only going to read one of her books I would recommend The Handmaid's Tale ....especially to women!

Sandy said...

How great for you to be able to sit in on this. Now I know what you do, I thought maybe you were a teacher.

Legends of the Fall rank up there with my 10 favorite movies.

Anet said...

Nice evening! wow... I would like to check out Harrison's True North. Sounds pretty good.
So funny...."you were not their advisor" lol!!!

Ruth said...

Loring, hahaha, yeah, that Jimmy Buffet thing. He was married to Margot Kidder for a minute too. And I must say, I've never heard anyone drop more names than McGuane did last night. But the buzz is that he has a beautiful way with language, and so I will follow your recs.

^ ^ ^

Sharon, thanks, I've had that recommended too. I am seriously the most illiterate English major anyone could find. I just don't like reading novels much. If only Jane Austen were still writing.

^ ^ ^

Sandy, nope, not a teacher, although what I do is definitely a form of teaching. I need to rewatch "Legends." I just love Anthony Hopkins.

John Ackerson said...

Sharon's right on the money with 'The Handmaid's Tale' being a good read as well!

Oryx and Crake does differ greatly in gender sensibilities since it has a lead, male protagonist, etc.

Both stories are great rides though.
And both have masterfully crafted environments.

Perhaps, Oryx and Crake allowed me to briefly revisit my 14 year-old self from 30 years ago.

freefalling said...

Once again, I open your latest post and discover some weird connection!
Today, I found an old book at the op shop of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, illustrated by the magnificent paintings of Charles Blackman.
Charles Blackman was so inspired when he first heard Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1956, he created 46 major works.
At the time, his wife, poet Barbara Blackman was going blind and he found "the story of Alice moving through a tableau of irrational situations, constantly frustrated, paralleled Barbara's own experiences as her eyesight progressively worsened".

I believe once upon a time, they would have burnt us at the post!

Oryx and Crake is creepy - I've never got that word "pigoon" out of my brain.

Ruth said...

Anet, yes! True North sounds like a story you would enjoy. Yeah, about being their adviser, Ford and Harrison said they did poorly in academics, didn't care too much about it. I'll bet I could look up their records! :)

^ ^ ^

John, I also have Cat's Eye here, and just never brought myself to start it. Have you read that?

^ ^ ^

Letty, and you bought it of course? You're right about the witchiness, we'd never have survived. But maybe we could have escaped on an outrigger or something. So happy still about your news. :)

Ginnie said...

You're one ahead of me, Ruth, so you "win." :) One day I would like to start reading novels. What is it about that...that we didn't do it that much while growing up?? Well, I DID read all the Grace Livingston Hill novels I could get my hands on but I bet they don't count!

Gwen Buchanan said...

I do love going to an author's reading... UNB in Saint John has quite a few authors come into town.. the last one we went to was for Jane Urquhart author of the Stonecarvers.. she was very humble and real...

laura said...

Quite an impressive haul for one English department! My friend Robin and I used to go to the Miami Book Fair together every year: what a great time. We met so many wonderful writers--David Guterson, Studs Terkel, John Banville, to name a few--I was awestuck every year. I love Richard Ford; have to put his latest on my "to-read" list.

Sandy said...

i have become a writer to justify my reading. funny but sounds true with most authors

SwedeHart said...

I just have one question- is that your rug?

Ruth said...

I don't know, Boots. Funny you say that now, it helps, because I realize it isn't just me! It might well be the home we had.

^ ^ ^

Gwen, it's fascinating, isn't it, how an author's person because it's own topic. I wrote about Orhan Pamuk a while back, and my expectations before a book signing, then disappointment in him there, and then finding him amazing at his reading. And Inge and I were talking about McGuane's persona, and how it put us off, and do we want to read his work?

^ ^ ^

Well, Laura, you would know! I'd love to mee Studs Terkel (is he dead? I think so). Yes, let's read Ford and talk about it. Friend Heather and I have bantied about having a book review blog, wouldn't that be fun, with multiple contributers?

Ruth said...

Sandy, I thought that was interesting too. (Obviously.) Hope you're well.

^ ^ ^

Hahaha, SwedeHart! Nope! But just as soon as Inge and I sat (and we were close to the front), I said, "nice Turkish rug!" Good eye, my dear. I wouldn't mind knowing about it.

Rauf said...

Ruth, in a book store i like (there are many that i don't like to enter ) i told Sindu that i want to write a book, we walked past discount section (unsold books} i said its a tragedy when the books are not sold, so i am giving up the idea of writing a book.

Ruth said...

rauf, the Chair of my English department, old friend, told me once that he only wrote books because he had to, for tenure, and that he felt the same since books don't sell.

Did you know the fastest selling book type at the moment is non-fiction. And I still think you should write a childrens book about Priya.