Friday, May 20, 2011

Read 'Em and Weep

I have attended two author events at the Museum that have filled me with awe. One was Dara Horn talking about her novel “All Other Nights” and the other was Wednesday night, when Julie Orringer, the amazingly gifted author of “The Invisible Bridge,” was interviewed by Gabriel Sanders, deputy editor of Tablet and soon to be our new Director of Public Programs.


Julie’s book is a sweeping epic of Paris and Budapest from 1937-1945. The stories of brothers, lovers, and friends are set against a backdrop of war-torn Europe, and they are at once exhilarating and heartbreaking. Like Dara’s book, which is set during the Civil War, I marvel at the abilities of these women to create a landscape that is purely authentic, fascinating, and makes you almost teary because the book has come to a close. This is no small feat for a book that is 758 pages (Julie’s) or 358 pages (Dara’s).


In both novels, the characters are so well drawn you want to devour all there is to know about them. As Julie said Wednesday night, she would ask herself every day, “What is going to happen to these people?” And to think that she lived with them for seven years. That’s longer than many marriages. When Dara was here I did not ask her how long she spent writing “All Other Nights,” but if the Civil War lasted four years, I will guess writing the novel took at least as much time. Considering this year marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, do yourself a favor and read Dara’s book. The story revolves around a Jewish union spy who infiltrates the confederate army. The writing is vivid, the history is captivating, and it is a marvelous example of an unfolding mystery.


I could go on comparing their wonderful qualities, but I have some speeches to write. Bottom line – make sure to add these writers and their books to your own personal library, or Nook or Kindle or IPad or whatever reading technology you use. I will note that one audience member discovered the drawback of using a Kindle: your favorite author can’t sign your Kindle.

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