Fiction can help us explore lives we never lived; discover places we have never been to; and form connections with characters we have never met. What better place to partner with to share such adventures than your Library System.
This winter, award-winning author Joan Silber will connect with Somerset County residents at the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey’s (SCLSNJ) inaugural Fiction First: The Art of the Novel event. The event, which aims to facilitate a connection between the community and major fiction authors, will occur on February 6 from 6-7:30 p.m., at the Bridgewater branch, located at 1 Vogt Drive in Bridgewater.
Silber, the author of eight books of fiction, will discuss her experiences, her works, her passion for reading and writing, and more.
“I always loved books,” said Silber. “My mother (a great reader herself) used to say, ‘The house could burn down and you’d have your nose in a book.’ I never understood, then or now, why someone would want to read any other way. I first began writing poems when I was in second grade—they did rhyme. My first-grade teacher lived in an apartment building where a famous children’s writer (Alice Dalgliesh—I still remember) lived, and our class composed a letter to her. This probably helped give me the idea that writers were real people.”
During the event Silber will delve into her most recent release, 2017’s “Improvement,” a patchwork novel that weaves together the stories of a single mother and her aunt, a Turkish farmer’s wife; a middle-aged truck driver; a young woman in Virginia; and a few other colorful characters.
“I had traveled three times to Turkey—a place that keeps changing in the public imagination—and was eager to use this background somehow,” said Silber. “Then—during Hurricane Sandy—I heard a piece on the news about how older people in a housing project were dealing very well without electricity or water. This helped me develop the character of Kiki, and I gave her a past in rural Turkey, where she would’ve lived without services we’re used to. I’m always interested in self-reliance. After several attempts, I ended up having a younger niece narrate her story, and then I began to sketch the niece’s life. Once I gave her a boyfriend at Rikers, I saw the plot gaining momentum. I wrote this first as a story, and then began to see how it could become a novel.”
“Improvement” won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award in 2017. The novel was also listed as one of the best books of the year by the “Washington Post,” “Newsday,” “The Seattle Times,” and “Kirkus Reviews.”
“In a somewhat backward process from the usual, I began as a writer of novels with a single narrator and moved over time into books of linked stories that spun out from an idea I was brooding about (“Ideas of Heaven: A Ring of Stories,” in 2004, was the first of these). I loved this form and felt I’d done my best work in it, but I wanted to keep moving, not repeating. I wanted to write a novel again-this time with the intensity of a line carried through but using the skills I’d learned in spreading across a web.”
Silber, who first began writing poems as a young girl and eventually evolved into writing stories, has been praised by the “The New York Times Book Review” as “intricate and wise” while the “Washington Post” has described her style as “funny,” “tenderhearted,” and “sharp.” Her previous books, “Fools,” and “Ideas of Heaven: A Ring of Stories” were both finalists for the National Book Award.
Other works include “The Size of the World,” finalist for the LA Times Fiction Prize; and “Household Words,” winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her short stories have appeared in “O Magazine,” “Henry Prize Stories,” “Best American Short Stories,” and “Pushcart Prize” collections.
“I could not be more thrilled to have the opportunity to welcome Joan Silber to SCLSNJ,” said SCLSNJ’s Director of Public Services Christoper Korenowsky, who will facilitate the Q&A with Silber during the event. “As 2020 is the 90th anniversary of SCLSNJ, I am delighted to add Ms. Silber’s involvement to our year-long celebration of events. She has been a tremendous force as an author of beloved short stories and novels for decades. As a native New Jerseyan, Joan Silber has often discussed what public libraries meant to her as a child and later as an accomplished author. I can think of no better way to make personalized connections between our patrons and materials than her beautiful written works. It is my distinct honor and pleasure to welcome Joan Silber to SCLSNJ.”
For more information or to register: sclsnj.libnet.info/event/3353908.