The Concord Festival of Authors was created in 1993 as an arm of the Angela Arkell Mitchell Foundation, a non-profit with the following mission:
to promote books and authors, to present the work of contemporary authors to the public, and to provide forums for authors to discuss their work.
At its founding, events for the Concord Festival of Authors took place over one weekend; it now spans a two-week period, with events in both Concord and Lowell. A fun piece of trivia is that in the third year of the Festival, “one of the three opening night speakers was a relatively unknown writer named Barack Obama, on tour for the publication of his first book Dreams From My Father.”
There are events for all ages, covering many interests. A quick look at this year’s schedule shows programs around ”new literary voices,” flash fiction, poetry, history, and suspense.
One program I try to attend annually is “Breakfast with the Authors.” This event is held at the Colonial Inn; it’s a nice breakfast buffet in the main dining room, packed to the rafters with people eager to hear the authors speak and to get an opportunity for Q&A and book signing … apparently literary people are early risers – there was quite a buzz when I entered the room at 7:45 last Saturday morning. I mentioned this program in my review of Olive Kitteridge; Elizabeth Strout was one of the speakers at the 2008 breakfast.
This year’s author line-up included Brunonia Barry, Gish Jen, and Jon Katz. I’ve read both of Barry’s novels (The Lace Reader and The Map of True Places), but am a new reader of Jen and Katz. Well, to be honest, I haven’t yet read their books (it’s been just a week! A girl can only read so fast!), but they have a place of honor on my “signed, to-be-read” stack! They are:
Gish Jen’s World and Town:
Hattie Kong—the spirited offspring of a descendant of Confucius and an American missionary to China—has, in her fiftieth year of living in the United States, lost both her husband and her best friend to cancer.
Two years later, it is time for Hattie to start over. She moves to the town of Riverlake, where she is soon joined by an immigrant Cambodian family on the run from their inner-city troubles, as well as—quite unexpectedly—by a just-retired neuroscientist ex-lover named Carter Hatch. All of them are, like Hattie, looking for a new start in a town that might once have represented the rock-solid base of American life but that is itself challenged, in 2001, by cell-phone towers and chain stores, struggling family farms and fundamentalist Christians.
What Hattie makes of this situation is at the center of a novel that asks deep and absorbing questions about religion, home, America, what neighbors are, what love is, and, in the largest sense, what “worlds” we make of the world.
Jon Katz’s Rose in a Storm
John Katz’s latest novel is inspired by life on his celebrated Bedlam Farm—and perceptively told from the point of view of Rose, a dedicated working dog.
Rose is determined and focused, keeping the sheep out of danger and protecting the other creatures on the farm she calls home. But of all those she’s looked after since coming to the farm as a puppy, it is Sam, the farmer, whom she watches most carefully.
Awoken one cold midwinter night during lambing season, Rose and Sam struggle into the snowy dark to do their work. The ever observant Rose has seen a change in her master of late, ever since Sam’s wife disappeared one day. She senses something else in the air as well: A storm is coming, but not like any of the ones she’s seen over the years. This storm feels different, bigger, more foreboding.
When an epic blizzard hits the region, it will take all of Rose’s resolve, resourcefulness, and courage to help Sam save the farm and the creatures who live there.
Jon Katz consulted with animal behavior scientists to create his unique and convincing vision of the world as seen through the eyes of a dog. Poignant, thrilling, and beautifully wrought, Rose in a Storm is a wonderfully original and powerful tale from a gifted storyteller.
Have you read either of these books? What about other books by Jen or Katz? I spoke to both authors at the program, and purchased both books (even confessing to John Katz that I’m not a dog person … he forgave me!). Please help me choose which book to read next!