Friday, June 15, 2007

Chronicle: Out of the Book conversations

I usually try to stay away from straight-up promotion of anything going on at the bookstore in this blog, but it would be disingenuous not to talk about the event that's taking up all my time and thought (other than the wedding, of course): tonight's Out of the Book event.

As you've probably heard all about, Portland indie bookstore powerhouse Powell's has produced the first in what they hope will be a series of short films about books and authors as part of a project called Out of the Book; sort of a filmic version of the author tour. The first features Ian McEwan's new novel On Chesil Beach. The film is distributed through independent bookstores all over the country; over fifty of them will be showing the film this week, either in their store or in cooperating venues. And each will create their own unique event around the film, from glamorous parties to writing contests to readings by other local authors and critics. The goal for all is to create conversation around the book, to go even above and beyond a regular author tour and make some literary, cultural things happen in all kinds of unique and local ways.

I feel like there's been more excitement in other parts of the country than in New York about this. And that's part of the point, after all. Though New York has the center of the publishing world and any author doing a U.S. tour is going to read here, Out of the Book means any bookstore that wants to can create a happening as literary and exciting as they wish, anywhere in the country. It's good to see a little blow to the New York-centric attitude.

But because we are here, our OOTB event has the potential to be something extra special. We're kicking off the evening with a performance by two young New York actors, who make the emotional heft of the novel almost painfully transparent. Then comes the film, then the panel discussion. Our panel includes not only the director of the film, Doug Biro, but two people interviewed in the film: NBCC president John Freeman, who will moderate, and novelist Colum McCann. They'll be joined by perenially fascinating novelist and memoirist Kathryn Harrison, and excluding the introduction by lil' old me (who also gets her ten seconds of screen time in the film), it's quite the star-studded evening.

And the part that most delights me is that the owners of the Pioneer Theater (a great East Village indie theater that will host the screening) have arranged for us to have an after party across the street at Mo Pitkins House of Satisfaction, a bar that often hosts literary events. The panelists and audience members will have a chance to mingle, drink, and continue that conversation about the book, the author, the film, and the project itself. It's the way it oughta be, I think.

So here's the shameless plug part: there are still a few tickets available. If you call McNally Robinson today, you might be able to get one set aside and have yourself a one-of-a-kind Friday night. If you can't, you may be able to hear the podcast at Powells.com later on. I'll hope to see you there...