Once upon a time, people gathered together for many different reasons: to dine out, to mark occasions such as birthdays and graduations, to find relief in the company of like-minded individuals — girls’/boys’ night out, anyone? And many of us loved and relied upon events having to do with the arts: theater, museums, movies and — my favorite — readings.
I created Writing Matters to present authors to my community who wrote excellent sentences, and who had the ability to get at something in a profound way. When COVID-19 hit, we could no longer gather together at places like the Hemingway Museum (now closed), where Writing Matters once took place, to sit side by side and take in words that we would analyze after the reading while we drank wine and ate what I must say were really good treats, and enjoy the bouquets of fresh flowers. All this while the author sat with bended head at his or her signing table, personalizing books.
We may not meet that way anymore, at least not for the time being, but we are still meeting via Zoom, in cooperation with what will be our new venue, the elegant Nineteenth Century Club. And speaking of elegant, I’m proud to say that the next author we will be presenting is Sue Miller, who is as stylish and sophisticated and insightful a writer as you’re likely to find anywhere. On Sunday, Nov. 22, at 2 p.m., we will be talking about Miller’s new novel, Monogamy.
There are so many passages in this book that I read a few times over, for the pleasure of words that sounded more like poetry than prose. Here is the character Lucas, sitting at a metal table in an outdoor bistro after he has just taken his wife and infant daughter to the airport for their month-long visit away:
“The sky was lavender above him. Yellow lights were coming on in the apartments in the houses across the street. The rooms they revealed seemed full of promise and mystery. Had there been, ever, such a beautiful evening? Everything felt strange and new to him.”
Let us deepen the scene: Lucas is someone who is having trouble dealing with what it means to be a father, and sitting at this bistro he is hearing the siren song of a former freedom. He cannot feel love, at least not yet, for someone he describes as “the un-Gerber baby.” It’s an intriguing dilemma, something people rarely admit to. And yet it exists, probably far more often than we think.
The main focus of the novel, though, is on Annie, a photographer married to Graham, a bookstore owner, whose appetite for life is large. Maybe a bit too large: Annie finds out after his death about an affair.
What to do with information like that, especially when the one who betrayed you can no longer be reached? What accommodation do you make inside yourself to bring you peace with whatever you decide that act of betrayal meant — to your partner and to you?
There are so many things to think about when you read this book, and so much to admire. Please come to hear a conversation between Sue Miller and me, and bring your questions and comments with you.
Perhaps, when you come, you’ll set yourself up with some wine, some treats and a beautiful bouquet — just to hold you over until we’re back to the real thing.
Writing Matters is held in partnership with the Nineteenth Century Charitable Association. For this free event on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2 p.m., register at nineteenthcentury.org. Signed copies of Sue Miller’s “Monogamy” are available at The Book Table, booktable.net, 1045 Lake St., Oak Park.