Right off the bat, actress Kirstie Alley admitted that she didn't come from a family of readers. In fact, she said, she spent much of her youth avoiding books. But once she got hooked, she became a devoted reader. She was inspired to write her memoir because she has "stories to offer." And the tales she tells in The Art of Men are centered on the men in her life — lovers, friends, comrades and enemies.
Alley was the master-of-ceremonies for the morning event, at which three prize-winning authors discussed what inspired them to write their latest books.
The idea for Michael Chabon's newest novel, Telegraph Avenue, was born almost 20 years ago, on the day the verdict of the O.J. Simpson murder trial was announced. While watching the news coverage, Chabon was struck by the idea of different levels and kinds of prejudices and that sometimes we believe we are free from bias when we really aren't. He questioned the significance of racial differences, noting that "black history is all our history, black music is all our music and black art is all our art." In his new novel, Chabon explores friendship, racial issues and families in the decade after the civil rights movement. The book includes cultural references to the freewheeling1970s.
Zadie Smith is intrigued by the "introverted extroversion" that makes up the personality of many readers. Although she noted that her "books aren't really about anything," she is driven to "create people in language" and is inspired by "writing that makes you hear voices." Her new novel NW is about four Londoners who grew up in a housing project in the northwest quadrant of the city. The book looks at what happens 30 years after they've all moved up and out and one of them is about to lose her sense of stability. Smith reflected, "The happy ending is never universal; someone is always left behind. In London that is often a young black man."
Pulitzer Prize-winning feature writer J. R. Moehringer believes that choosing a book is a bit like picking a mate — fate surely plays a role. When he set out to write the story of Willie Sutton, he was fascinated by the idea that a man who was on the first-ever FBI Most-Wanted List could be a grassroots hero and may have been motivated by love. Sutton was one of the most successful bank robbers of all time, and he was a master at evading capture. Although Moehringer had already begun working on Sutton, he knew he was destined to write the novel the day he learned his mother had actually played a small role in the bank-robber's saga.
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