A RECORD SETTING LITERARY EVENT
By Edwin D. Reilly, Jr.
For The Sunday Gazette
Except for a
sporting event, a show at Proctor’s, or a rare Presidential visit, it
unusual for a thousand or more people to assemble anywhere in
you say. “Who is she?” Well, though ignorant of her success until the
the voting for this year’s One-County-One-Book was announced, I learned
Picoult is the author of 14 best-selling novels going on 15. And this
winning book, by a 6-vote landslide over my favorite, “
The idea that
Some of this
success is a credit to all of you who voted for the Picoult work. But
due to this year’s co-chairs, SCPL trustees Jean Wildgrube and Ben
Little did I know that Ms. Picoult has a huge following. At a Board
last year, Jeanne said “Let’s raise (a certain five-figure number of)
to bring Jodi hear to speak.”
“What!” I said.
“We couldn’t possibly raise such an amount for a literary event,
featuring such an obscure author.” One Trustee abstained, another voted
did I, but 15 or so others voted Aye.
Well, the committee raised the money,
with the Library Trustees, principally from generous donors such Dr. N.
Balasubramanian, the Friends of the Library,
So we built
it (the event), and come they did, in droves. I was astounded but
hid my embarrassment until this confessional piece. As was said by
LaGuardia, a boyhood hero of mine (because he read the funnies to
Now, was it
something about the particular Picoult novel that drew that crowd? Was
author known, but not to me, as the scintillating speaker she turned
out to be?
Was there indeed a big local Picoult fan club that had never asked me
to join? One
clue was that not since I taught at a co-ed university a decade and
had I been in the midst of so many young
women of beautiful mind, an attribute easily ascertained because I
inside the head behind each beaming countenance.
there were a
few men there too, mostly library trustees, members of the Board of
of the Friends of the Library, WMHT cameramen, and assemblymen. I
with Jim Tedicso and out with Paul Tonko, each an honorary co-chair.
Might it be
the case that men are far less likely to read fiction than nonfiction?
be the case that men are less likely to read novels by female authors?
they never enjoyed the masters that were every bit the equals of their
Austen, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Carson McCullers, Eudora Welty,
Spark? And Virginia Woolf. Who’s afraid of her? Such thoughts are just
suppositions, which, because of the paucity of data known to me, have
to the level of opinions for which I am paid. But I can’t help but
So, is “My
Sister’s Keeper” one of the world’s great novels? I think not, but it
a good one, and certainly a very provocative one. It was not my intent
review the book or discuss its sociological implications—that has been
with consummate excellence by a panel assembled by Karen Bradley and
Marianne Potter on WMHT. By all means, check out the resulting DVD from
Suffice it to say that the plot revolves around parents who decide to
a second daughter “designed” to serve as a compatible donor to an older
has developed a rare form of leukemia. And do read the book and join
one of the
many other relevant discussion groups being formed all over the county.
After Jodi’s lecture, interrupted frequently by thunderous applause, almost everyone in attendance queued up in a very long line carrying multiple books for her to sign with a sinister flourish (come now, I only mean that she is left-handed). Jean Reilly carried a book of our own, the book of the moment, and another title owned by our daughter-in-law Beth, who was out of town.
There followed a
reception for “Special Guests” who had the honor of meeting the author.
library trustee, I was given four tickets. Jean and I had intended to
neighbor to invite her and her daughter Carrie to come with us,
they might have heard of Jodi. Alas, other busyness kept us from making
call before we had to embark. “Perhaps we’ll see someone whom we can
the school,” said Jean.
As we moved up
the crowded aisle after the talk, whom should we see a step or two
neighbor Janet and daughter Carrie. We offered the tickets, which were
gratefully accepted, and, after getting their books signed, they joined
the school library for the reception.
When her turn to approach the author came, Carrie, about sixteen, shed all of her natural shyness and asked Jodi if she would pose for a picture with her. She readily agreed, and Carrie’s mom digitized the moment forever. The ecstatic teenager exclaimed “This is the happiest day of my life.” And it was very close to one of mine.
Edwin D. Reilly, Jr. is a Trustee of the Schenectady County Public Library and is a regular contributor to the Sunday opinion page.