HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: It’s college reunion time, and so many of my pals are talking about theirs. My college, Western College for Women in Oxford Ohio, doesn’t exist any more, so reunions don’t, either. (As far as I know. Yikes, maybe they’re not inviting me? )
Anyway. Reunions are not just a way to see how everyone turned out, they’re a poignant and fascinating time to remember, um, the way we were. And think about what we wish we had known and what we wish we had done—or, hadn’t done, ahem—and connect with the women ahead of us and behind us.
The amazing Katherine Hall Page went to her reunion last weekend. And so did some incredibly interesting and high-profile pals of hers, as you will read below. (Whoa.)
Katherine has a book of short stories out, what, today? Which is serendipitous, because according to Katherine, “What are you reading?” was a hot topic among the women at the reunion. (And KHP was not the only reunion-attendee with a new book….)
You’ll be fascinated to hear who Katherine was hanging out with last weekend. And at the end, KHP she poses a very provocative question. (And we’re giving a copy of her wonderful SMALL PLATES to one lucky commenter!)
KATHERINE HALL PAGE: I could talk about my new book, Small Plates (Wm Morrow), which is a collection of short stories and a novella, but instead I’m going rogue. Do please get the book in whatever way you favor: library, online store, bricks-and-mortar store, eBook, audio etc. Small Plates is a book I have wanted to do for a long time and, although I find writing short fiction much more difficult than writing a full-length novel, it was a wonderful experience. Some of the stories do not mention Faith Fairchild, my series sleuth, or even much food at all.
So—I spent the weekend at my Wellesley reunion and the experience is filling my thoughts this morning (plus I am wearing my favorite Wellesley tee shirt: “It’s Not A Girls’ School Without Men/It’s A Women’s College Without Boys.”).
Women make up 70% of the book buyers in this country, which adds up to a helluva lot of books. Of course we give some of them to the men and boys we know; but mostly we are buying them for ourselves to read. That’s what we do. We read. It may be Nora Roberts or Nora Ephron (one classmate had grabbed an audio book for the drive thinking it was the latter and has now, to her delight, discovered someone new).
|Katherine at Wellesley|
Books came up often over the weekend. Madeleine Albright ’59 gave a very funny, very wise talk about her wonderful new book, Read My Pins. My long time friend and classmate, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Hard Choices went on sale Tuesday (it’s a page turner-fantastic book, get it!) and she was on campus reuning with our class. It was great to see her. And yes, she loved Small Plates, mentioning me as one of her favorite contemporary authors in this Sunday’s “By The Book” in the NYTBR.
The question “What are you reading?” was asked over and over as friends reconnected. The Goldfinch was the clear winner, but many people spoke of their comfort reads. A class of a certain age, as we are, is definitely in need of those. Jane Austen came in first, followed by Dame Agatha—and many childhood favorites: A Secret Garden, and yes—Little Women.
When I got home I looked at the stack on the table next to my bed—I have always read a few books at once, dipping into what my mood, or need, demands. I’m almost finished with Jo Nesbø’s Cockroaches, and well into: The Road to San Giovanni, Italo Calvino; Offshore, Penelope Fitzgerald; another favorite Penelope-Penelope Lively, How It All Began; and a frequent reread: Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking, and More Home Cooking. I read a ton of chick lit, mostly British chick lit, and I suppose these are truly my comfort reads. Katie Fforde, Sophie Kinsella (aka Madeleine Wickham), Elizabeth Buchan, India Knight, Jill Mansell, Helen Fielding, Jane Green, Marian Keyes—I could go on and on. Just take me to Harvey Nichols to pick out a posh frock or a cottage in the Cotswolds with a handsome stranger down the lane whom you hate at first, but then…and I’m there.
We read. We read to escape. To learn. To imagine. To forget. To remember.
We read for the sheer love of it.
HANK: So—let’s say you were at a college reunion—what would you tell a newbie about what to read? What you wish you had read? Or what didn’t matter? (I came late, and happily, to Edith Wharton. They MADE me read Ethan Frome, which I hated back then. Now, I am Edith’s biggest devotee.)
What didn’t matter in college? Ah. Well, I wasn’t much for actually going to class, but I wouldn’t recommend that.
What I’m glad I read? Easy. Shakespeare. (And Our Bodies, Our Selves.)
How about you? And don’t forget…SMALL PLATES to one lucky commenter.
AND THE WINNER: of TERMINAL CITY is PlumGaga! Email me via my website Http://www.HankPhillippiRyan.com with your mailing address!
TOMORROW ON JUNGLE RED: Are you a cat person? Or a dog person? Would anything change your mind? Edgar nominee Steve Ulfelder confesses.
Katherine Hall Page is the author of twenty-one adult mysteries in the Faith Fairchild series and five for younger readers. She received the Agatha for Best First (The Body in the Belfry), Best Novel (The Body in the Snowdrift), and Best Short Story (The Would-Be Widower). She has been nominated for the Edgar, the Mary Higgins Clark Award, the Macavity, and the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She has also published a series cookbook, Have Faith in Your Kitchen, which was nominated for an Agatha. A native of New Jersey, she lives in Massachusetts and Maine with her husband.