17 February 2009

New Fiction

Tonight I attended a reading/talk by David Eagleman, author of the seven-day-old Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives at Brazos Bookstore. Last night, I saw Ha Jin, author of A Free Life, at Zilkha Hall, part of the Inprint Reading Series (Richard Price on March 9!). The events were similar in that I had expected more reading than talk, but, in retrospect, I didn't mind that they were what they were. As for questions from the audience, they almost always put me ill at ease, and I wish they would be eliminated altogether, but maybe one day I'll have a burning question (as a turquoise jewelry-wearing, salt-and-pepper-haired readingsgoer) and will be glad they're still taking questions from the audience.

Sum is about possibilities. Possibilities of the afterlife, of our inevitable, unknown end (or is it?). Eagleman playfully presents these musings of what-might-happen-when-we-die in forty short vignettes. Which, because they were published—and I am curious if anyone agrees—makes him, the author of the work, somewhat less human. The short "tales" of the afterlife, which are funny and poignant, remind us of the value of our present lives, and maybe, even if for a moment, enable us to abandon our worry, our existential angst concerning what may or may not become of us. Because we don't know (and by "we" I mean "I"), we probably won't ever know, and it's okay that we don't.

Eagleman claims not to be agnostic, or anything, really, other than possiblist, I think he called it. For the sake of tonight's talk and future talks, that is all good and fine. But I rarely want too much of an explanation behind a piece of writing, or art. For Sum, Eagleman doesn't need it, because the make-believe stories activate my mind, make me laugh and lament all the same, and wonder. Which is enough, I think. Some members of the audience, however, wanted to compare notes with this newfound "religion," which was annoying and a waste of time, in my opinion. Anyway, I look forward to reading the rest of the tales and may post some excerpts if you're lucky.

1 comment:

Nik said...

Which makes me think: Any interest in a book group? Or, at least, the two of us coordinating our reading so we can discuss?