I feel very fortunate to live in a region with a vibrant community of people who love to read and write. One of the great things about living in this kind of community is that I get a chance to see a lot of authors read and discuss their work. Last week alone, I had the opportunity to see Steve Almond read from his latest collection, God Bless America, at Germantown Academy, Robin Black and a handful of other writers speak on the subject of contemporary fiction at Bryn Mawr College, Beth Kephart read from her haunting new novel, You Are My Only, at the Radnor Library, and Chuck Palahniuk — well, it’s hard to describe what he did, but it involved inflatable brains, and it was wonderful — at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Obviously, this is a wide range of writers, each with different styles and interests, but what struck me about all of them is how really kind and thoughtful they all are. They’re just really nice people. At the end of each reading, the authors generally took time to answer questions from the audience, and when they did this, I got the sense that they were really listening to the questions and answering from the heart. I also got the sense that these authors not only love writing, but they love that people read their work as well — and thus feel indebted to their readers to some extent. To put it another way, I got the feeling that the respect between the readers and the authors was mutual.