Town Hall Report May 2012
May 24, 2012
Now that I live just one block from Town Hall, I am sure to become a regular. This week I peeked in on two author appearances: Erik Larson discussing his In the Garden of Beasts, and Augusten Burroughs reading from This Is How. With a restricted budget right now and lack of anticipation to reserve them in time, I have gotten to neither title but hope to very soon. Unfortunately, I was a shy wallflower at both and didn’t interact with either writer, but I believe in ceding face time to the true disciples anyway.
Larson and Burroughs couldn’t be more different in style: one like an avuncular professor and one more like a cool rehab counselor. Larson said he thinks of himself as an “animator of history” and not so much a historian as such. He seeks compelling stories from individuals’ or families’ points of view from any period to put the reader inside the relevant time in a way broader history cannot, but he emphasized his work is no replacement for reading history. He also noted the ongoing fascination with the tragically foreboding 1930’s and succeeded, I think, in giving everyone a sense of the “willful ignorance” that allowed people to overlook the Nazis’ “madness” and hope for a different outcome than what seems inevitable to us in retrospect.
Burroughs mentioned he was reading a different chapter from his new book in each city he was touring. For Seattle he chose the chapter on regret. He asked the reader to cherish regret and even cultivate an attitude of gratitude toward it, as every regret can be a lesson or precursor to some “diamond” of experience that happens later. Wise, true words indeed.
Larson, Erik. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin.
Summary: The bestselling author of “Devil in the White City” turns his hand to a remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power. The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.
Burroughs, Augusten. This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More: For Young and Old Alike.
Summary: “From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Running With Scissors comes a groundbreaking book that explores how to survive the “un-survivable” and will challenge your notion of self-help books.” Publisher’s description.