2012 Fall for the Book recap

George Mason University's annual Fall for the Book Festival included authors Neil Gaiman, Alice Walker, and Michael Chabon (Photo courtesy of Fallforthebook.org)
George Mason University's annual Fall for the Book Festival included authors Neil Gaiman, Alice Walker, and Michael Chabon (Photo courtesy of Fallforthebook.org)

Last week, George Mason University's annual Fall for the Book Festival was in full swimg, bringing many acclaimed authors to the campus and surrounding area. In case you were busy studying, in class, or just missed the event, here are some of the highlights from the festival:

  1. Neil Gaiman wins the 2012 Mason Award

    On Friday, September 28, to an audience of 1,800 people at the Center for the Arts, writer Neil Gaiman received this year’s Mason Award. Known for a variety of books, from his “Sandman” graphic novel series to his recent book “American Gods” and his widely popular children’s story “Coraline,” Gaiman did anything but disappoint his eager fans.

    Gaiman is known for his play on words and his sinister writing; however, he is best known for his humor. Dressed in all black, cracking jokes here and there, Gaiman answered questions from the audience off of note cards that were given to him prior to his appearance.

    Gaiman also read from his newest book, “An Ocean at the End of the Lane,” which he had just sent to his publisher at 3pm that day. The audience at Mason was the first group of individuals to ever hear Gaiman’s new work, which included a new children’s short story entitled “Click, Clack the Rattle Bag.”

    Gaiman answered questions ranging in topics from “the most existential question I’ve ever been given” to “Doctor Who.” Neil Gaiman wrote an episode for the widely popular episode British television show “Doctor Who." Gaiman wrote the episode entitled “The Doctor’s Wife.” For his work on “Doctor Who,” Gaiman won the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in Short Form. Asked whether or not he would be writing for Doctor Who again, Gaiman simply answered, “Yes,” to roaring applause from the audience.

    Gaiman was humbled when presented with the 2012 Mason Award, acknowledging his affection for the various authors that had received the award prior. Authors such as Dave Eggars and Stephen King, Gaiman said, “are my friends that I’m honored to share this with.”

    --C2M Entertainment Editor, Helena Okolicsanyi; Photo courtesy of Fall for the Book and Grace Kendall
  2. Alice Walker extends the love

    Alice Walker, author of various works including “The Color Purple,” spoke on Thursday, September 27. One of the many crucial themes in Walker’s talk was on the importance on “extending the love.” Extending the love, to Walker, means loving one another even if we don’t have the energy for it. Walker noted that “sometimes you can’t extend the love, because we are tired; the love is there but lacks the energy…love is indestructible and is very strong.” Walker’s speech was delivered as if one was being spoken to by a wise friend looking out for you, ready to wrap you up in her arms.

    Humbly, Walker continued to discuss “The Color Purple.” She noted how this novel continues to resonate with audiences because it is a story of “how we suffer,” but that they also see joy in the world around them.

    Joy was another theme that Walker touched on. She encouraged the audience to spread joy by posing the question, “Do you want to be going around people who aren’t joyful? More often than not we surround ourselves with people doing terrible things.”

    Walker also discussed her involvement with Stephen Speilberg in the making of the film adaptation of “The Color Purple.” She was at first hesitant to grant Speilberg the rights, but was quickly persuaded when she saw how much he cared about her characters and wanted her to be as involved in the production of the film as possible.

    The film was nominated for several Academy Awards but won none of them. She noted that at the time the film was being produced, there wasn’t a single African American woman or male on the board. In fact, Walker noted that she wasn’t disappointed in the film not winning any awards, because the judges deciding the awards didn’t understand her and her work: “The last thing you want is to be affirmed by someone who doesn’t understand,” she said.

    Walker did not only speak of her work and literature, but also about the current political process. Disenfranchised by a government that she sees as not working, she encouraged the audience to “admit we are upset with the system and that we expect the kind of leadership we deserve.” She declared her dissatisfaction with a male-dominated political system noting that “5,000 years of patriarchy is coming to a close.”

    Before a question-and-answer session, Walker read from her new book “The Cushion in the Road,” a work made up of personal essays along with a new poem entitled “Democratic Womanism.”

    --C2M Entertainment Editor, Helena Okolicsanyi; Photo courtesy of Fall for the Book and Grace Kendall 
  3. Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon wins 2012 Fairfax Prize

    “I’ll be speaking for four hours. I hope you peed,” Michael Chabon playfully said as he began his presentation.Like the recipients before him, Chabon read from his work before being presented with the prize on Sunday night.

    Chabon won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for his book “The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay.” The novel was on Chabon’s fascination with childhood comic books. The book centers on two Jewish children in the 1940s who create a popular comic book series. Chabon’s novel quickly became a New York Times Best Seller.

    Chabon’s reading for Sunday’s event came from his work “Q and A,” which consists of a series of questions asked to Michael from himself and answered by him. Throughout the reading he addressed questions such as “Can you really teach writing?” and “Why do you write?” along with other questions that allowed the audience to understand his creative process as a writer.

    Chabon talked about the progression his writing goes through as an author. He was clear that writing is not an easy process, there are ups and downs; however, Chabon has continued to write because it is what he knows best. “All my ideas come from other books, from the act of reading,” Chabon said.

    Chabon continued to describe his struggles with writing, focusing on the difficult process of creating a good story, rewriting and trying to find perfection in each story. Chabon even described the tedious process a college professor once taught him, of writing a story sentence by sentence, rewriting each sentence as you go.

    It is clear that Michael Chabon’s talent in writing is something he has crafted and worked on for many years now. His reading of  “Q and A” gave the audience insight to his writing process and what he thinks it means to be a writer.

    (Photo by Alex Do)
    -- C2M Reporter, Rycki Robertson
  4. Matt Bondurant

    Hailed by the New York Times as an author who “skillfully conjures the elemental world his characters inhabit,” Matt Bondurant, best-selling author of “The Wettest County in the World,” read from his newest novel “The Night Swimmer.” During a reading and lecture on Friday, September 28, Bondurant discussed the inspiration for this new novel: his relationship to swimming, a sport with which he has always remained close.

    During his Fall for the Book presentation, Bondurant read from his newest work, a novel in which his two characters Fred and Elly, a competitive swimmer, fall in love. Bondurant, prior to his reading, noted that he gained a lot of inspiration from novelist John Cheever and wanted an excuse to add his works into his novel.

    Also taking inspiration from the seas of Ireland, “The Night Swimmer” is written in first person from the point of view of Elly. Plagued by a skin condition, Elly is able to swim in unnatural temperatures without causing herself physical harm. The novel centers on the relationship between Elly and Fred, from when they meet in graduate school as English majors to the unraveling of their marriage.

    Bondurant also noted that the inspiration for his work came from trying to make sense of the world. He explained that he wanted to make sense of the unknown world of his grandfather and also the world as seen through the eyes of a swimmer.
    (photo courtesy of Evelyn Seay)

    --C2M Entertainment Editor Helena Okolicsanyi
  5. Indigenous art and literature

    On Thursday, September 27, Chicana scholar Cherríe Moraga and illustrator Celia Herrera Rodriguez spoke on their new book, “A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness.” Cherríe Moraga is widely recognized for co-editing the feminist anthology “This Bridge Called My Back” with the late Gloria Anzaldúa.

    The lecture began with a concept of Chicana identity. “Chicanos are indigenous to the Americas,” Moraga said during the lecture. She went on to discuss how people of color have dual perspectives.

    Moraga continued on in her lecture to cover various topics including the Occupy Movement, President Obama and the Civil Rights Movement. Moraga equated the Occupy Movement as a protest against class inequality.

    Following her speaking, Moraga read from several of her writings from the book “A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness,” including a piece describing President Obama’s legacy of hope.

    After Moraga spoke, Rodriguez also gave a brief lecture on her illustrations. Throughout her lecture, she displayed various pieces of her artwork. “Drawing was an act of resistance for me. Drawing is like writing for me,” Rodriguez said. Moraga ended the lecture with a positive statement: “Hope is tenacious and courageous.”

    --C2M Reporter Mabinty Quarshie
  6. Master of the Arts Fellows reading

    On Thursday, September 27, the Center for the Arts hosted the Masters of Fine Arts Fellows Reading, featuring six students from George Mason University’s Masters of Fine Arts program. The students, all of whom were awarded 2012-2013 Master of the Fine Arts fellowships, read original pieces, including pieces that lead to the awarding of their fellowships.

    The event started with a poetry reading by Benjamin Bever, the 2012 MFA Poetry Completion Fellow. Bever read a few of his original poems including “Lodi Gardens,” a poem reflecting upon the four years Bever spent in India as a teenager. The poem, named for the Lodi Gardens in New Delhi, depicts the tranquility among the crumbling tombs of former kings.

    Following Bever, Lindsey Johnson, an MFA Fiction Thesis Fellow, presented an excerpt from her thesis paper. Johnson’s work transported the audience to a rural town in North Carolina in the wake of one family’s heartbreak.

    (Photo by Dakota Cunningham)
    Mike Walsh, a MFA Thesis Fellow in Poetry, followed Johnson by reading several of his own poems. He finished with two collage poems that he assembled by taking phrases from introductory language textbooks. The original versions of the poems were written in French, Spanish, Mandarin and Korean and were harmonious and mysterious when read aloud.

    Walsh then introduced Mike Stein, an MFA Completion Fellow in Nonfiction. Stein read “Bohemia,” an acronymic essay that described his family’s heritage and journey from Bohemia, Prague to America. 

    Sheila McMullin, the Heritage Fellow in Poetry, read several poems that included not only her voice, but also incorporated planned responses from several of her friends in the audience. The interaction between the poet and her accompaniments lent an eeriness to the presentation of the poems.

    To conclude the evening, Nani Power, a Fiction Thesis Fellow, presented a theatric representation of her work. In this portion of the presentation, two actors portraying the roles of brothers brought to life a story of an ill-fated trip to Acapulco, Mexico.

    --C2M Reporter Danielle Sullivan
  7. Amy Waldman reads for her new novel “Submission”

    Author Amy Waldman spoke at the Sherwood Community Center building on September 27. During her presentation, Waldman stood at the podium and looked out to the audience detailing how she began her transition from journalist to novelist. Waldman was a journalist working for The New York Times, a job which led her to cover the aftermath of 9/11 in Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx. She has since moved to India and worked as co-chief correspondent of the South Asia bureau for The New York Times.

    In 2011, she published her first novel, “The Submission.” Waldman credits her story idea, in which main character Mohammed Khan, a Muslim-American wins a September eleventh memorial design competition. Submitting his design anonymously, Khan receives backlash, a fact that allows the book to highlight the identity that the character is now faced with as a Muslim-American in a post-9/11 world.

    “In many ways, the conversation about ‘The Submission’ is echoed and has continued the conversation within the book,” said Waldman in her closing remarks.

(Photo courtesty of thesubmissionnovel.com)

The Submission” has received awards such as Entertainment Weekly’s #1 Novel for the Year, The New York Times Notable Book for 2011 and one of National Public Radio’s Ten Best Novels. Waldman is currently working on her second contemporary novel in hopes that the success will be as widespread as the first.

--C2M Reporter Jasmine Smith

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)
Student Media Group: