As regular readers of this blog know, I have never been shy about showing up at events for writers I admire if they are anywhere near me. (Even if they weren’t technically ‘public events.’) But one of the things I was most looking forward to about starting grad school, is that I’ll no longer be crashing a lot of these kinds of talks. And one of the delightful things about my specific choice of grad school (the University of Texas at Austin) is that it has the Harry Ransom Center, which is an incredibly impressive archive. Especially if you are interested, like I am, in the papers and lives of American and British authors from the last hundred years or so. (They have a ton of other stuff there as well, but that’s what grabbed my interest on a visit a couple of years ago when they were having an exhibit on Tennessee Williams, and just happened to have some drafts of letters between David Foster Wallace and Don DeLillo hanging on the wall.)
Anyway, they have recently acquired, the papers of Ian McEwan and to celebrate last night they hosted the first American reading of his new novel The Children Act (which was only officially published on Tuesday). The whole reading had a celebratory feel, which was remarkable given that The Children Act isn’t any cheerier than Mr. McEwan’s regular fare. It’s about a family court judge in London who has to decide heart wrenching cases of child endangerment, but aside from the actual reading (which was compelling enough for me to buy the book) McEwan’s tone was affable and light. One audience-questioner asked whether or not he had a cat, and he said he had a border collie, which made me love him just a little bit more than I already did.
The book seems, from the excerpts that I heard last night, to be worth reading, and I highly recommend going to hear him speak if you ever get a chance. Also his signature is hilarious (beaten only by Anne Carson’s for my favorite in my book collection):