It seemed we barely had enough time to recover from the weekend before we found ourselves all suited up and back at the Wallace House for this Tuesday’s program. This week, writer, professor and Knight-Wallace Foundation board member Nicholas Delbanco read to us from some of his work and led a brief discussion on the relationship between novel writing and reporting. It’s always interesting to me to see writers read their own work and Delbanco clearly seems to enjoy doing so. He’s the opposite of some writers I’ve seen, the kind that try to shrink into their chair or hide behind their podium, seemingly embarrassed by their work. The mood seemed slightly different to me than on previous Tuesday nights. I think it was the combination of some real bonding having taken place over the weekend and the slightly more relaxed atmosphere as Charles Eisendrath was in New York for an event featuring Mike Wallace. Sort of like having your parents go out of town, although Birgit would have kept us in line, I’m sure. “I still want to work here,” she said. Min-Ah Kim was the first to present and she told us both about her life in South Korea and the country itself. I really like Min-Ah a great deal. She’s just unbelievably warm and friendly and laughs at absolutely everything. (In fact, for the most part, this is a pretty happy bunch – and understandably so, given the opportunity presented them.) I wasn’t surprised to learn of her fast descent to becoming the first female political reporter for her paper, which is South Korea’s independent daily. I was a little more surprised to learn that she, at one point, quit journalism to move to London and realize her dream of seeing Les Miserable from the front row. (This ultimately earned her a new nickname, Les Min.)
Drew Lindsay, managing editor of The Washingtonian magazine, went next. He didn’t reveal too much about himself – except in his incredibly sweet description of being bowled over by wife Sally upon first meeting her. At one point in their early marriage, if I heard correctly, he and Sally quit their jobs and spent ten months driving around the US, seeing everything they wanted to. What an amazing experience to have together.
It was interesting to get the perspective of a magazine guy, since the majority of people here have done the bulk of their work in daily newspapers. For me, it shed some light and answered some questions (while raising others) about city magazines. Having written for St. Louis Magazine in the past, I’ve always been kind of curious about the place and purpose of this type of publication.
Afterwards, we were treated to a simply magnificent meal prepared by Steve and Sarah Titherington and Luis “El Guapo” Vinker. It was, apparently, Luis’ first foray into cooking ever and while he claimed to have done nothing to help out, Sarah disagreed and was threatening to tell his wife in Argentina that he was now ready to help in the kitchen. Luis, needless to say, wasn’t down with that idea. But, he conceded, “it makes me appreciate my wife and what she does more.” Strike one for feminism in Argentina!
The meal started with the most exquisite stuffed red peppers, filled with cheese, basil, anchovies and drizzled with olive oil. A simple salad with a lovely vinaigrette followed and then came some of the best lasagna I’ve ever tasted – and I say that of both the meat and vegetarian varieties, which Chris and I shared. You can’t imagine my delight to learn that dessert was meringues with whipped cream and berries. A bit of a curiosity to Americans – who generally eat their meringue soft and on top of pies – meringues are one of those foods that are unbelievably nostalgic for me. When we were growing up, they were a frequent treat at birthday parties, fresh whipped cream sandwiched between two meringues – the perfect balance of hard shell and chewy bottom (tee hee, that sounds funny.) They reminded me of my mom.
Of course, she’s been on my mind a lot lately anyway, not just because it’s October. I’m heading to Louisville for a few days to help my father finish packing up the house in which they lived together for 14 years until her death two years ago. The new owner will move in by month’s end and then the place where my mother died, the back garden where Chris and I were wed will become part of someone else’s history. So strange.
I’ll return home late Friday and then on Saturday will attend a short story writing workshop with Julie Orringer, whose How to Breathe Underwater I’m finishing up. That evening is the 826 Monster’s Ball, including a reading by Elizabeth Kostova, who is the author of the NYT bestseller The Historian – and a former student of Nick Delbanco. Speaking of 826, I was regaled with donations last night towards the Oxford English Dictionary (abridged, two-volume) that I have convinced the Fellows would be a great contribution to 826 Michigan. In fact, we gathered more than enough money to cover the cost and have a little extra with which to purchase a few other books from their wish list. It feels really good to be making a mark as a group, a lasting contribution to Ann Arbor. Maybe it’s just the first of many more to come.