This winter, I took a break from serious, I-better-read-this-because-it's-good-for-me nonfiction. Instead, I went down to the library in January and checked out every novel that I've been meaning to read but haven't gotten around to. Two of them stood out; check them out yourself and see if you agree.
I don't know what I was expecting from The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffeneger - some kind of lighthearted but literary read - but this novel knocked me flat. The premise is clever enough - a woman falls in love with a man who has a limited and imperfect ability to travel through time, which means that she will meet up with him at odd and unexpected points in her life - but I was just astonished at the way in which the author pulled it off. As a young girl, Clare is visited by a version of Henry who, in the future, is already married to her. When she's a young woman in her early 20s, she meets the young, present-day Henry, who doesn't yet know anything about her. If you liked the sort of surprising, non-linear storytelling that made the film "Memento" so good, you'll like this book.
But it's also heartbreaking in the way that, say, Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones was heartbreaking. After all, Henry is a time traveler. He's got a general and unsettling idea of what the future holds, and the reader does, too. Even knowing this, the final scene was so haunting and heartbreaking that I couldn't shake it for days. So brace yourself, but read it anyway.
I've been meaning to read Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo for ages, but I'm glad I waited. Russo captures a particular kind of small-town life that I don't think I could have appreciated until I'd lived in Eureka for a few years. It is, in some ways, one long exercise in creating flawed characters: You might love the cantankerous old Sully, but he's not going to make it easy for you. You're going to have to work at it. Nobody's Fool is one of the funniest books I've read in a long time, and if you don't recognize your hometown of Arcata/Blue Lake/Rio Dell/Fortuna in it - well, go back to Santa Rosa where you belong.
There are a number of local author events coming up in the next month, starting this Saturday, April 14, at 2 p.m. at Rainy Day Books, which is just off Main Street between 11th and 12th in Fortuna. Owner Monica Hubbard told me that she wanted to spotlight the work of local writers when she opened the store, and she's managed to rustle up some good ones. Roy Parvin, author of
In the Snow Forest and The Loneliest Road In America will be there, along with Cecelia Holland, author of Serpent Dreamer and an astonishing number of other books of historical fiction. Vincent Peloso, host of KHSU's Mad River Anthology, will also be there reading from his work. And if you don't get over there for the event, just get over there. She's a young woman who opened a bookstore. She's living the dream, people. Go give her your support.
Jerry Martien tells me that HSU is sponsoring an exhibit of letterpress broadsides called "How the Ink Feels" at the HSU Library. The exhibit opens April 20 with a reception at 3 p.m. in the library's Fishbowl Room. It runs through July 4 and will feature work from well-known printers, writers, artists and papermakers. For instance, Martien said, the broadside of Jane Hirshfield's poem is on paper made by letterpress printer Karla Elling from grasses harvested by the poet on her property. (Note to self: Make something interesting out of weeds.)
Next up are a couple of events at Northtown Books. On Saturday, April 21, at 1:30 p.m., children's author Ellen Dee Davidson will read from her new picture book, Princess Justina Albertina, which is perfect for kids ages 4-8. And on April 21 at 7 p.m., Northtown hosts a poetry reading in honor of National Poetry Month. (By the way, the store offers a 20 percent discount on poetry books throughout the month of April.) Mark Shikuma, Daryl Chinn, Celia Homesley, Theresa McClaren and Jerry Martien will all read from their work. Northtown owner Dante DiGenova told me that he considers the event "wine-worthy," so you can bet that there will be something to sip on.
And finally, please plan ahead now for Friday, May 18, when Blake's Books in McKinleyville will host four local authors with new books from 6-8 p.m. as part of Arts Alive. Barbara Kerley will sign two new children's books - the historical fiction novel Greetings from Planet Earth and the photographic picture book A Little Peace. Fantasy author Pamela F. Service will be there withTomorrow's Magic, a two-volume reissue of her popular books starring the wizard Merlin. Natasha Wing will have her new book The Night Before Summer Camp, and I'll be there too, signing copies of my new book Flower Confidential and trying to talk Natasha into expanding her bestselling series to include new titles such as The Night Before the Booksigning, The Night Before the Deadline and other such cheery topics to help inspire local authors. Stop by and say hello, and feel free to suggest your own Night Before titles. I'm sure Natasha would just love to have our input.