Monday, November 17, 2008

Culture in Cleveland

I donned my waterproof pants and biked downtown to the Cleveland Public Library yesterday to attend CPL's Writers and Readers Series featuring Sarah Vowell, author of 5 bestselling books, voice of superhero Violet Parr in The Incredibles animated movie and frequent contributor to NPR's This American Life.

An overflow crowd hears humorist Sarah Vowell at the Cleveland Public LibraryDespite warnings of a lake-effect snowstorm, the Louis Stokes Auditorium already had a capacity audience of 315, so I listened via closed-circuit hookup in the lobby, where another 300+ sat and stood (above). About 150 lined up afterward for the book signing.

It was nice to see so many Clevelanders (including several of my Shaker Square neighbors) turn out on an NFL Sunday afternoon for an intellectual experience.

Vowell rewarded them with a wry presentation, reading from such whimsical works as The Assassination Vacation (she makes the McKinley Mauseleum funnier than a comedy club) and answering audience questions with equal humor.

Why aren't there more historical footnotes in her books? "I don't consider my books proper histories, just good stories. Most of my readers aren't interested in histories -- I call those people Americans."

Did you dress up for Halloween? "I went as an author on a book tour. You know, sunken eyes, smelly clothes."

And when she strayed from the question: "Digressions are my thing."

Only one minor complaint (emphasis on minor): Reading excerpts from a book, even one with as many gems as Vowell's works and even when presented by someone with her performance skills, can quickly become tedious. The briefest sampling is the best.

As I've noted in the central theme for this blog, writing for the ear is different than writing for the eye.

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