Friday, November 14, 2008

Hour I First Believed

Last night I went to the book reading and signing of Wally Lamb's new book The Hour I First Believed This was the first author discussion I've ever attended and was pretty excited about going. He was a professor at UCONN when I was there and many of his books are based either at UCONN or in Norwich, where he grew up and where I lived for a short period of time. It's fun to read his books because he references specific locations but twists the words a bit. For example, in I Know This Much Is True he references a place in his book named Cow Barn Hill. If you went to UCONN, you know that Horse Barn Hill is where you'd go to play a serious game of hide-and-go-seek or flashlight tag. It was where everyone went armed with a tray from the cafeteria after the first big snowstorm to sled (or tray) ride. And it was where you could escape for a little clarity. Many of my friends would go 'talk to the cows' or my favorite- feed the horses, when you needed some time alone. So it is always a little more special to me to read Wally Lamb's books knowing I share this with him.

He began by talking about his family and his upbringing. He brought himself up to just after I Know This Much Is True became successful (uh, hello, Oprah bookclub). Then he talked a bit about the struggles he had creating a new story. It's been about 9 years since he's published a new novel. He talked about his conference in New Orleans in 1999 where he stepped inside the church on Jackson square and lit a candle hoping for a new story. It sounded like he was really struggling. Then he talked about some terrible tragedies that plague our nation: Columbine High School massacre and September 11th.

These are two topics that I struggle with personally. During his speaking I caught a lump in my throat when he brought these up. He talks about these because one of the characters in this novel is, fictionally, one of the teachers at Columbine High during the massacre. All Wally Lamb's novels are dark where the main characters struggle with some mental illness/issues. It seems that this main character is the same, struggling with childhood bullying and power issues.

He read a condensed version of chapter 4 last night. It was interesting to hear not only HOW he read, but also the story itself. It was a chapter which was repulsive and funny, where the main character, 8 years old, was in school and being bullied by the janitor, who was flicking his 'little package' and convinced this little boy that he's a 'dirty boy'.

There is no doubt this book will be as deep and strong as the other Wally Lamb novel. Due to the topics, I'm not sure how ready I am to jump into this emotion-laced novel. I might just wait to hear the overall reviews. Or I might just avoid it, something a typical Wally Lamb character would do.

Here's Wally Lamb doing a little speech similar to the one from last night.

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