112th: Kathleen Hill and Joan Silber
Please join us on Wednesday, November 1st at 7pm to celebrate the launch of Kathleen Hill's She Read to Us in the Late Afternoons: A Life in Novels at Book Culture on 112th. Kathleen will be joined in conversation by Joan Silber.
Beginning with a Best American award-winning narrative, Kathleen Hill's memoir explores defining moments of a life illuminated by novels, read in Nigeria and France and at home in New York. As a child in a music class where a remarkable teacher watches over a classmate marked for tragedy, the author by chance reads Willa Cather's novel, Lucy Gayheart, and is prepared against her will for death by drowning. And prepared for the teacher's confessions to the class of a frustrated ambition to become a pianist, her regret for a life that will never be. Later, recently married and living in a newly independent Nigeria, a teacher now herself, the author gives Achebe's Things Fall Apart to her students and is instructed by them in the violent legacy of colonialism. And loses her American innocence when she visits a nearby abandoned slave port and connects its rusting shackles with the students sitting before her. Reading A Portrait of a Lady, also in Nigeria, she ponders her own new marriage through the lens of Isabel Archer's cautionary fate, remembers her own adolescent fear that reading might be a way of avoiding experience. A few years later, this time in a town in northern France, haunted by Madame Bovary, by Emma's solitude and boredom, she puts aside Flaubert's novel and discovers in Bernanos' Diary of a Country Priest the poverty and suffering she had failed to see all around her. The memoir closes with a tender account of the author's friendship with the writer, Diana Trilling, whose failing sight inspires a plan to read aloud Proust's masterwork, an undertaking that takes six years to complete. Faced with Diana's approaching death and the mysteries of her own life, the author wonders whether reading after all may not be experience at its most ardent, its most transforming.
Kathleen Hill teaches in the MFA Program at Sarah Lawrence College. Her novel Still Waters in Niger was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and named a Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Chicago Tribune; the French translation, Eaux Tranquilles, was shortlisted for the Prix Femina Etranger. Who Occupies This House, a second novel, was named an Editors’ Choice at The New York Times. Her work has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2000, Best Spiritual Writing 2013, Pushcart Prize XXV, and The Pushcart Book of Short Stories. A memoir, She Read to us in the Late Afternoons: A Life in Novels is forthcoming in late October.
Joan Silber’s new novel, Improvement, will be published this fall. Other books include Fools, finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and longlisted for the National Book Award, The Size of the World, finalist for the LA Times Fiction Prize, and Ideas of Heaven, finalist for the National Book Award and the Story Prize. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and in the Warren Wilson MFA Program.