Why does one go to an author reading? Is it to brush fame, even if it is only an author, Pulitzer-prize winning or not, who would likely not even be recognized on the street by you or anyone else? Is it because we seek inspiration, as if the audience was full of writers seeking something, anything that might aid their craft or make the artistic process any bit easier? Or is because, as lovers of literature, we seek information and understanding of the creator of works we cherish? Oh, that sounds mightily grand, that last one, and it might be true for some, but I'm pretty sure it's a combination of the three that took me to the Tattered Cover last night to see Richard Ford. He is probably one of the most important living writers and it would foolish of me not to go to his appearance. It is almost as if I owe him my presence, another filled seat, because his writing has been so important to me--never mind those things I said about Independence Day. After all of this there is little wonder that I couldn't muster the excitement to go see Bret Easton Ellis last month.
Ford's reading was inspirational. It was enjoyable to hear him read, particularly because he read a section of his new novel The Lay of The Land that had been excerpted in the New Yorker. Ford is funny. Or should I say, his character Frank Bascombe is funny. To hear Ford read it really brought out the humor, along with the exasperated cynicism. What was more inspirational was his ability to answer audience questions with thorough and honest answers. He said that young authors should not be afraid to fill their novels with everything they can do. The writer's whole wealth of knowledge should be allowed into the book. This is important, but it leads, I think, to a problem that I think Ford has of putting everything into a novel and walking away quite empty. It probably leads to some of the problems that Michiko Kakutani sees with the novel.
And, of course, it was good to brush fame, to shake the man's hand and share a few words.