Start: 1:00 pm
Stegner Fellow, Iowa MFA, and winner of The Atlantic's Student Writing Contest, Anthony Marra has written a brilliant debut novel that brings to life an abandoned hospital where a tough-minded doctor decides to harbor a hunted young girl, with powerful consequences. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena ($26.00) begins in the final days of December 2004, in a small rural village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa hides in the woods when her father is abducted by Russian forces. Fearing for her life, she flees with their neighbor Akhmed--a failed physician--to the bombed-out hospital, where Sonja, the one remaining doctor, treats a steady stream of wounded rebels and refugees and mourns her missing sister. Over the course of five dramatic days, Akhmed and Sonja reach back into their pasts to unravel the intricate mystery of coincidence, betrayal, and forgiveness that unexpectedly binds them and decides their fate. With The English Patient's dramatic sweep and The Tiger's Wife's expert sense of place, Marra gives us a searing debut about the transcendent power of love in wartime, and how it can cause us to become greater than we ever thought possible.Anthony Marra is the winner of a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize, The Atlantic's Student Writing Contest, and the Narrative Prize, and his work was anthologized in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012. He holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and is currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. He has lived and studied in Eastern Europe, and now resides in Oakland, CA.
Start: 6:00 pm
In conversation with Sandra M. GilbertDriven by curiosity, wanderlust, and health crises David Downie and his wife set out from Paris to walk across France to the Pyrenees. Starting on the Rue Saint-Jacques then trekking 750 miles south to Roncesvalles, Spain, Paris to the Pyrenees: A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Way of Saint James ($27.95) follows their eccentric route: 72 days on Roman roads and pilgrimage paths--a 1,100-year-old network of trails leading to the sanctuary of Saint James the Greater. It is best known as El Camino de Santiago de Compostela-"The Way" for short.The object of any pilgrimage is an inward journey manifested in a long, reflective walk. For Downie, the inward journey met the outer one: a combination of self-discovery and physical regeneration. More than 200,000 pilgrims take the highly commercialized Spanish route annually, but few cross France. Downie had a goal: to go from Paris to the Pyrenees on age-old trails, making the pilgrimage in his own maverick way.Professor Emerita at the University of California, Davis, Berkeley resident Sandra M. Gilbert has published eight collections of poetry, most recently Aftermath. Among her prose books are the memoir Wrongful Death, the cultural study Death’s Door: Modern Dying and the Ways We Grieve; and two essay collections, On Burning Ground, and Rereading Women.. With Susan Gubar, she is coauthor of The Madwoman in the Attic, No Man’s Land (three volumes) and coeditor of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women. She is currently at work on a book tentatively titled The Culinary Imagination along with an anthology of food writing. In 2013, Gilbert and Gubar were named winners of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Lifetime Achievement.Listen to David discuss his new book on NPR below:http://www.npr.org/2013/04/14/176830220/a-pilgrimage-through-france-though-not-for-god
Start: 7:00 pm
Remember reading Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby in high school? How about Slaughterhouse-Five and Pride and Prejudice? Would you read them again now that no one’s grading you, just for your own enjoyment? Practical Classics ($18.00) helps you do just that.Author Kevin Smokler guides you through fifty books commonly assigned in high school English class and shows you why you’d probably enjoy rereading the same books as an adult. Smokler’s essays on the classics—witty, down-to-earth, appreciative, and insightful—are divided into ten sections, each covering an archetypical stage of life—from youth and first love to family, loss, and the future. The author not only reminds you about the essential features of each great book but gives you a practical, real-world reason why revisiting it in adulthood is not only enjoyable but useful.Kevin Smokler is the editor of Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times, a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book of 2005. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Fast Company, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Believer. He can be found online at www.kevinsmokler.com or on Twitter at @weegee.