Saturday, April 28, 2007

Pen Writers: Marilynne Robinson and Per Petterson

Yesterday, I went to hear a conversation between Per Petterson, author of "Out Stealing Horses" and Marilynne Robinson, author of "Gilead" as part of the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, April 24-29 in NYC. I'd gone to other events earlier in the week including one at 192 Books, our local bookstore with readings by Lluis-Anton Baulenas, Abla Farhoud, Moses Isegawa, Dorota Maslowska, and Per Petterson, introduced by Francine Prose.

Both Petterson and Robinson discuss memory and relationships between fathers and sons. Both work effectively in the first person singular. They agreed that writing about families encompasses human phenomena by including values like loyalty. Robinson discussed the elaboration of metaphors in her books. "Housekeeping" has the particular audience of her family in mind. The book is a photo of a lake around which her family congregates regularly. She described the origins of an authorial voice as "an intense, plangent, musical atmosphere."

Hearing readings of their works (with eyes closed) and explanations of how they work was an interweaving of pattern and result. It was a magical hour.

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