Life of Smiley
Harrison Library brings in Jane Smiley to launch an impressive lineup of author appearances.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Carmel’s Harrison Memorial Library, which is sustained through donations, is lucky to have the support of the Carmel Public Library Foundation, which raises money for “every book, CD, DVD, all the services, equipment, resources and programs” in the library.
The foundation is set to launch the library’s free (though a $10 donation wouldn’t be refused), family-friendly and annual Author! Author! series this Sunday, the start of a months-long program under the Arts and Literary Series that’s primed to bring in esteemed writers and historians to give historically and artistically fruitful presentations to patrons. (See sidebar below.)
This Sunday it starts with a big, prolific intellect of a guest presenter. Big like University of Iowa M.F.A. and Ph.D. Big like Fulbright scholar and O. Henry Award winner. Big like Pulitzer Prize. Meet Jane Smiley.
“I like the library,” she says from her Carmel Valley home.
For appearances like these, she adds, “I really enjoy giving readings and questions are always fun. That’s my favorite part. I think it’s the most energized and random.”
The questions could vary greatly, depending on the book. Smiley’s reading from and/or signing her latest (and 13th) adult novel, Private Life, loosely based on Smiley’s great-aunt and her mad-scientist husband, but she’s also making room for three young adult books about horses set locally: The Georges and the Jewels, A Good Horse and True Blue. That’s a lot of range, moving from entertaining possible questions about fidelity in the face of growing madness to questions about Palominos and horse grooming.
Private Life is where the madness comes in, tracking a couple from Missouri who ends up in California. “It concerns a marriage,” Smiley says. “He’s the town genius. They end up on an island near Vallejo which at one time was a Naval shipbuilding factory. Quite a change from their Missouri youth.”
Smiley also grew up in Missouri, and has lived in Carmel Valley since 1996.
It’s a tricky proposition to pin down what kind of writer she is. She’s done novels anchored in real life people, places and wars, historical biography, books about books, a TV script (Homicide: Life on the Street), political commentary.
A champion of the novel and reading and libraries, she says that the “last 20 years have been a real Golden Age for readers,” and that the future is even more gleaming thanks to technology.
“People like to read on their Kindle,” she says. “I have a Kindle. It weighs 10 ounces [and] you can [carry] 25 books.”
Harrison Library has been keeping up: They offer patrons e-books and e-audiobooks, paid for through contributions and visits by people like Smiley.
“I was an avid reader as a child so I probably made myself to be a writer,” she says. “If you read and read and read, you start wondering how it works. It’s an easy transition from reading to writing.”
When asked what else she might do to fulfill her if writing could not be a part of her life, she offers a quick, flat response: “Nothing.”
The library seems to have chosen its first speaker well.
THE AUTHOR! AUTHOR! series launches with Jane Smiley 4-6pm Sunday, Nov. 13, at Harrison Memorial Library, Ocean and Lincoln, Carmel. $10 suggested donation. 624-2811, www.carmelpubliclibraryfoundation.org.
The Author! Author! portion of the CPLF’s annual Arts and Literary Series, along with Harrison Memorial Library’s Local History Lecture Series, elevate Carmel cultural IQs.
Each installment takes place 7pm at Carpenter Hall (Sunset Center, Ninth and Mission, Carmel). Here’s a peek at what’s ahead:
Douglas Smith • Jan. 10 Author of The Pearl, awarding-winning historian, translator and resident scholar at the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies.
Jack Galante • Jan. 31 The Galante Vineyards owner speaks about the history of Carmel and its founder, his grandfather Frank Devendorf.
Susan Shillinglaw • Feb. 28 Resident scholar at Steinbeck Center and professor of English at San Jose State University presents a lecture on Steinbeck and Jeffers.
T.J. Stiles • March 6 The author of The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for biography visits for a lecture and book signing.
Gordon Wheeler • March 27 The Esalen CEO speaks on the institution’s 50 years.
Yiyun Li • April 10 One of the Granta’s 21 Best Young American Novelists under 35, she grew up in Beijing and came to the United States in 1996. Her novel, The Vagrants, won the gold medal of California Book Award for fiction.
Gary Breschini • April 24 The doctoral expert presents a lecture on indigenous art from the Peninsula’s past.
Jerry Fielder • May 15 The estate curator and director speaks on 20th-century photographer Yousuf Karsh and his extraordinary and unique portfolio.