Thursday, June 16, 2005

Visiting 'TIME'

The q/a and reading to the Out group at TIME, Inc. was great fun, and I was in excellent company with authors Stacey, d'Erasmo, Susan Stinson and Alison Smith. Alexandria, Michael and John were our hosts and I'd like to thank them for the invitation to discuss my work.

First up to read was Stacey (whom I hadn't had the pleasure of meeting before) and she read from the beginning of her award winning novel, A Seahorse Year, about a San Francisco family coping with a 16-year-old son's mental illness, which Booklist stated was "a supple yet piercing novel of obdurate individuality." Most memorable for me was her lush description of a beautiful garden and the image conjured by her reference to three dried seahorses.

I hadn't met Susan Stinson before either and must say her reading from her Lambda Literary Award nominated novel, Venus of Chalk, was nothing less than spellbinding (and I'm tough to make that way) as her body swayed rhythmically and soft, melodic voice seduced the audience as she described her protagonist, Carline, bathing in a most inviting lake. I read somewhere recently that there's a survey out stating that women will read books by men yet men don't really read women's book's (something that shocked me profoundly). Well, Susan's third novel is high on my agenda. This is how she describes her approach to writing:
I am a novelist and poet whose work centers on the lives of characters who love rules yet cannot live within them. These stories are fueled by beauty that transgresses conventions of body size, sexuality and historical identity. My books are about ideology and disorder, continuity and disruption, bodies and souls.

Susan maintains an author blog and you can link to it by going to my "Author Blogs" sidebar and clicking on it.

Last but by no means least was Alison Smith who read from her award winning memoir, Name all the Animals. I'd heard Alison read before at the Lambda Literary Awards reading in New York a few weeks ago and yesterday she prefaced her reading with a very witty chat that struck a personal chord.

Alison's brother, Roy, died when she was fifteen and her memoir examines how this affected both she and her family. My own brother, Seamus, was unconscious for almost two months when I was seventeen-years-old and was left with a limp and some brain damage which precluded him from continuing with his academic work. While he has subsequently almost ninety-five percent recovered, he still has memory problems and feels very angry still about this accident, feeling it robbed him of sporting and college opportunities.

Yet, it's often forgotten that in these situations there are other 'victims.' My youngest sister, Siobhan, and brother, Dermot, told me recently that their childhoods (Siobhan was ten and Dermot eight) ended on the day of the accident because our entire family dynamic revolved around Seamus for years, his recovery, his rehabilitation, his future. To this day, my parents often tend to think of him in relation to his accident--my father particularly so in that a biased jury (one of copious examples of wretched Northern Ireland justice, unfortunately) exonerated the Protestant company responsible for the accident and no award was ever made--the event still fresh and raw in their minds. I hadn't thought about this (nor had my other sister, Deirdre, who was closer to me in age) until my sister Siobhan told me when I was over visiting in January. And Alison, in her funny and poignant memoir, shows us how it was for her to define herself in the aftermath of his loss.

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