Mrs. Larson and the Constant Flow of Thoughtful Books or, Meet Garth Stein at the Field’s End Writers’ Conference, April 28, 2007.
Garth Stein has published books, created documentary films, written a play, won an Academy Award and a prize from Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. He embodies the best of many cultures, interests and education. His mother, a native of Alaska, is of Tlingit Indian and Irish descent; his father, a Brooklyn native, is the child of Jewish immigrants from Austria. He received both his Bachelor’s and his Master of Fine Arts degrees from Columbia University in New York City.
Couldn’t he at least be ugly? Um….Sorry, I can’t help myself. I notice stuff like this. Did it have anything to do with Garth being tapped for the Field’s End conference? Ohferpetesake, it’s a writers’ conference. What do you think?
The novelist has worked in stage and film, directing and producing documentaries and short films, including the award-winning “When Your Head’s Not a Head, It’s a Nut,” which documents his sister’s brain surgery for epilepsy. Some of his other notable films include “The Last Party,” starring Robert Downey Jr.; “Philadelphia, Mississippi,” and two music videos which he produced that were directed by Johnny Depp.
Garth’s first novel, Raven Stole the Moon, was published to critical acclaim and was translated into German and Italian. His second novel, How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets, was published in 2005.
The Boy Who Returned From Heaven is a sequel to his first. He also has written a full-length play, titled Brother Jones, which was a finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference, a finalist for the Northwest Playwrights Competition, and was selected for the 2004 Shenandoah International Playwrights Conference. The work at the Lyric Hyperion Theater in Los Angeles, and was hailed as “brimming with intensity,” by the L.A. Weekly.
The accomplished writer and teacher reports that he’s “totally psyched” about his next book. “It’s currently titled The Art of Racing in the Rain. The story is told from the point of view of a dog named Enzo, whose master is a race car driver. It’s funny, poignant, observant….the Jonathan Livingston Seagull for dogs, if there could possibly be one.”
One of Garth’s early influences was a school librarian. “When I was a freshman in high school, the school librarian, Mrs. Larson, stopped me one day. ‘We just got this book in,’ she said. ‘I think you’d like it. Why don’t you check it out before I shelve it?’ I did, and I liked it very much.
“A few weeks later, I was leaving the library after finishing my afternoon homework, and Mrs. Larson stopped me again. ‘Have you read this yet?’ she asked, holding up a book. I hadn’t, so I checked it out and read it.” Over the next four years of high school, Mrs. Larson sent books my way. Most of the time, I really enjoyed them–but not always. Still, she provided me with a constant flow of thoughtful books.
“Sure, I’ve forgotten many of the books Mrs. Larson gave me. But many of them–Farhenheit 451, Kim, or the poems of Walter de la Mare (yes, I actually read poetry for fun when I was a teen)–have stayed with me.”
“For me, libraries aren’t about storing books for my convenience. They are about people and communication and interaction. Libraries are about Mrs. Larson, my high school librarian, who knew what I liked, wanted to challenge me with things outside my comfort zone, and who cared for all of her students, knowing that each of them could find joy in the books of her library.”
You can learn more about Garth (including the fact that Mr. Adorable is quite married, thankyouverymuch) at www.garthstein.com, and about his appearance at the April 2007 conference at www.fieldsend.org.
How To Read Like a Hunk:
Garth Stein recommends…
PAPILLON by Henri Cherriere. “If you need an amazing adventure story, open this book.”
GOOD AS GOLD and SOMETHING HAPPENED by Joseph Heller. “Yes, yes, we all know about CATCH-22. But look further, and you will find some fantastic writing, very funny, incredibly touching…Joseph Heller is an old school novelist, and he is wonderful.”
Any play written by TENNESSEE WILLIAMS. “He’s such a brilliant dramatist, pick up a play and read it. His plays, when acted well, are amazing; they are equally stunning when they are read.”
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST by Ken Kesey. “Never have I laughed so hard at something so painful. I cry just thinking about the beauty of his book. Seen the movie? It’s great, yes. But it can never compare to the stark beauty of Kesey’s novel.”
PRINCIPLES OF RACE DRIVING by Ayrton Senna. “Oh, come on! I just wrote a book about a race car driver! What do you expect?”