Saw Alan Cheuse and Alyson Foster reading tonight At the Hill Center, a terrific new (old) space for the arts on Capitol Hill. Foster is a “new” writer, and Cheuse is, of course, the voice of books on NPR. Foster read from a new novel she’s sold but hasn’t published (or finished) yet, GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT, and it was terrific. Wisely, she read from the beginning and I can’t wait to read this novel. She got an amazing introduction from Cheuse from this first in a series of local readings that PEN/Faulkner is hosting, which will feature writers who know each other and admire each other’s work.
GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT is an epistolary novel (written largely in emails, as I understand it) and the first three or four (my memory is shot) were just terrific. As a “new” writer (that term bothers me, although we all know that new writers are the best type, at least in the publishing industry’s way of looking at things), she was a bit nervous in this reading. She probably thought I was nuts, but I came up to her afterwards and asked if I could offer a criticism. She was nice and agreed to hear me out. I said, Read half as much and half as fast. (She was nervous, but her sentences deserve more time to play out.)
That’s a bit of criticism I got a long time ago, and it makes a difference. As was the criticism of “make eye contact with your audience.” It’s done me good, over the years. She’s a good writer, and readings are a great way to connect. It was cool that her dad was there (I gathered), as was her husband. Neither of my parents ever saw me read, as far as I can recall.
As a GMU graduate, I was really pleased to be a part of this evening, and glad to meet all these great folks.
Cheuse, of course, is an old hand, and was the easy storyteller, an old hand at this. I think I first saw him read in about 1983, when I was in grad school. He made a great comment after the reading when someone asked about inspiration. With all due respect, he said, and I am paraphrasing here, there’s no such thing. I agree. My son came along, and he asked a question of Cheuse about irony. He probably could have chatted up the writer all night, but he was corralled by his “chaperone.”
PEN/Faulkner will, as I understand it, be posting a podcast of the reading and I highly recommend downloading it.