I remember being hesitant to join her. I was exhausted after an incredibly long day of meeting deadlines and it was darned cold out. But, the event was happening about a block away from my building and the author was none other than John Irving. I had only read one of his books at the time: The World According to Garp. Although I had really enjoyed that quirky novel, I was reluctant to venture out. Did I mention how cold it was?
Rachel, meanwhile, had schlepped in from New Jersey and was so excited that she was practically crawling out of her skin. She had read each of Irving’s books up to that point—A Prayer for Owen Meany being her favorite—and in her mind, this event was not to be missed.
I don’t remember which of his books he was promoting at that particular reading, but I am so grateful to Rachel for pulling me out of my everyday routine to experience the magic that happened on that frigid night inside Shakespeare & Co. With too many eager readers jammed into a dimly illuminated, no-longer-in-existence space filled from floor to ceiling with books, books and more books, the great John Irving read from his work and shared background stories. It didn’t hurt that he looked and sounded more movie star than author. The whole experience was invigorating and made my subsequent reading of his novels spring to life in a way they otherwise may not have.
Reading the interviews with authors sometimes provided at the end of a novel can certainly provide insights into characters or settings that might be otherwise overlooked. Actually being in the same room with an author and listening to him/her discussing background and process, however, adds a whole other dimension. I would highly recommend it if the opportunity arises, even if it’s cold out.