(why hold a hefty book aloft when you don’t have to?)
to Rebecca Makkai’s I Have Some Questions For You and shared the following assessment with my multitude (that’s a joke) of Facebook friends:
Holy shit is it good.
An aside to newbie audiophiles: also, critically important to the listening experience is the performer. Try out a sample before committing. Keep a running list of the ones to steer clear of. (I’ve heard some voice actors who should be sued for over-the-top accents, mispronunciations and relentlessly cheery deliveries.) In this case though, Julia Whelan does a really good job reading Makkai’s smart words.
(Also, for the record, practically every Irish person with a lilt and a basic grasp of phonics is equipped to narrate the hell out of anything. Fiction. Personal essays. Pharmaceutical inserts.)
I Have Some Questions For You is both suspense (ostensibly it’s a murder mystery) and social study, with the author capturing granular details of this particular moment in history, with a vengeance. Seriously. She’s like a kid with a homemade time capsule, snagging details from our cultural landscape, preserving it inside a Mason jar.
(Her success at this is in stark contrast to another famous writer’s recent release, an endless-tome I stopped reading
(ie. turned off)
a third of the way through because his idea of setting the scene in the ’80s was basically a compendium of Google lists (music, trendy restaurants, cars) sans any kind of finesse.
Makkai’s pithy sentences, on the other hand, are laced with acute observations about unequal justice, the MeToo movement, Twitter mobs and wrong assumptions, all while exploring how traumas, big and small, reverberate. And somehow she does it through what she calls “wobbly memories” and an unreliable narrator.
Not long after I posted my brilliant assessment of I Have Some Questions For You to Facebook a friend asked if I was going to hear Makkai speak at the Virginia Festival of the Book. I hadn’t really planned on it but then thought, why not? (The last time this introvert attended the wonderful gathering of word-lovers in person was as a pre-Covid panelist—an experience from which I’ve nearly recovered. Actually that’s a joke, too. I had a wonderful time when the date finally came. It was the nausea inducing lead-up to the public speaking engagement that was problematic.)
But I made my husband come with me (again) and jotted down some thoughts as I listened to the three speakers, also including Quan Barry and Jung Yun whose books have been added to my To Be Read
It was really interesting to hear the authors themselves talk about their intentions in the moderated forum about the reinvention of characters through their return to place. Which was one of the things that blew me away about Makkai’s book. Her obvious ability to plot things out, ala chess moves going forward and back.
(Trying to outline a multi-stop shopping trip into town is difficult for me.)
Anyhoo, I used a blank journal grabbed from the (re) gift pile entitled Everything I Say Is Fascinating to take notes in. This time I was able to look around the audience without having to imagine them in their underwear. (That’s a public speaking trick.) Here are some observations:
—Why are virtually no men here?
—Rebecca Makkai is young enough to be my daughter (WTAF?)
—Closing your eyes while listening to authors read aloud is the literary event equivalent of ostentatiously swishing wine in a glass at a tasting. Just sayin’.
ADDENDUM TO ERIKA’S BOOK CLUB:
I just read Catherine Newman’s We All Want Impossible Things and was BLOWN AWAY. Hysterically funny and wildly sad. #Masterful.
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