There are nine winners of the Windham Campbell Prize. A friend said "if you want to know what a million dollars looks like, just look at those winners", each one gets $150,000.00
Last night's reading at the Yale Art Gallery was a good chance to hear the winners read from their own material with only a small amount of commentary from the host.
Jackie Sibblies Drury: She read from a work in progress that has to do with surveillance, information, enhanced interrogation, all taking place in an NSA-like building. Watching how she distinguishes each character was interesting--she raises a hand to identify which character is talking. Must seek out some of her work. Part of the reason to go to the festival is to listen to people you know of and to discover new writers.
Helena Edmundson: Did not attend.
Debbie Tucker Green: Did not attend.
Teju Cole: He read from Open City, his 2011 novel. The passage read was about the evoking of memories while hearing something. It was cinematic in its description. I have read some of his non-fiction, now it's time to read his fiction.
Helon Habila: He read from his book Oil on Water. There is a deliberateness to his writing, a slowness almost, making you feel what the characters feel. The passage involved a reporter, a kidnapping and a fever. Definitely going to find his books.
Ivan Vladislavic:He read from his non-fiction Portrait with Keys: The City of Johannesburg Unlocked. His descriptions are so evocative. In this case he read about a snowstorm in Jburg (as he referred to it). It takes politics, people and nature and wraps it all up. Definitely deserves a follow up to read.
Geoff Dyer: He read a "lecture" about Jackson Pollock that was both funny, sad, and true. It was also in a sense a bit of satire about holding up artists as these people who can do anything and get away with it.
John Jeremiah Sullivan: He read a story that involved Jefferson and Meriwether (yes, that Jefferson and that Meriwether) and Robert Penn Warren. You have to read it to believe. It involved the murder of a slave named George. It is a horrible story yet crafted and well told by JJ Sullivan. Can't wait to read more by him.
Edmund de Waal: He read from a new book, The White Road, that debuts October 2 in London, It's about porcelain and its history but it is also about de Waal himself and his pursuit. He wrote the The Hare with Amber Eyes which I can't wait to read--it's about a collection of netsukes but that hardly does it justice.
Really, that auditorium should have been filled. The opportunity to see world class writers read from their work for free was a privilege. I learned, I was inspired and I was reminded of the power of the printed word.