Sunday, March 13, 2011

Catching up with Carolyn Turgeon and friends in Philadelphia

Had a very literary, artsy and relaxed sort of afternoon today.

Went to Philadelphia for a reading by two novelists, Carolyn Turgeon and Jeanine Cummins, in the comfortable and eclectic home of arts lovers Trillian Stars and Kyle Cassidy.

There was also a lovely performance by Chicago-based singer-songwriter Molly Robison (Here's a video of Molly singing one of the songs she played today. It's called "Patience Worth.")

Carolyn (that's her with me after her reading) I know from high school, and she nicely invited me to the Philly reading after I had to decline a recent invite to one of her NYC readings (if you're in that area, she has one coming up this Wednesday, March 16, check out here blog for details).

Carolyn read for about 30 minutes from "Mermaid" (Broadway, 256 pp. 2011, $14), which I now have an inscribed copy of but have not yet had the pleasure of reading. In short, it's the tale of two women - a princess and a mermaid - who both love the same man. Much is at stake for both of them and only one of them will win the prince's heart for good. The tale is a dark departure from the saccarine Disney version of The Little Mermaid, Carolyn said.

Next, Molly played a few songs from her new CD, "Bedrooms & Attics," which I immediately liked - that girl has a sweet voice and can play her some guitar! Anyhow, bought the CD and listened to it on the way home. Hope to hear more of Molly's work soon.

Rounding out the afternoon was a reading by Jeanine Cummins from her new novel, "The Outside Boy," (New American Library, 2010, 356 pp., $15) told from the point of view of someone who lives the culture of the Travelers, a gypsy sort, in Ireland. I haven't read this novel yet either, but I now have a copy sitting next to me. Cummins' reading was a chapter or so of her book and had to do with a young boy's experience assisting with the birth of a horse was quite compelling and rich. Cummins is the bestselling author of a memoir of tragedy, "A Rip in Heaven."

After the reading Carolyn and I compared cowboy boots (hers, black with dark pink roses; mine just dusty brown) and talked a bit about our hometown of State College, where she calls home when she's not traveling. Coming up soon she'll be touring the midwest in support of her novel, to places like, Omaha, Neb., and Appleton, Wisc., where her other books, "Godmother" and "Rain Village" were well received, she said.

It was fun to get reacquainted with an old friend like that ... someone I hadn't seen other than on Facebook since, oh, about 1989! I am impressed by her grace, her ease with the whole publicity thing and, of course, her talent.

Here is a recent YouTube short and comical posting by Carolyn in which she speaks about one of her inspirations, Hans Christian Anderson. The notoriously unlucky at love Anderson wrote The Little Mermaid, the fairytale on which Carolyn's new novel, "Mermaid," is based. Turgeon told me she has a children's book and several other projects in the works.

And, as long as I'm posting videos and pics, I also found this interesting video online of Cummins speaking about her novel, her inspiration and why she chose to write fiction this time around. Cummins, at right in a publicity photo, is currently working on a children's book, and another novel that alternates chapters set in Ireland and in New York City.

Even with laryngitis, Cummins hung in there and read for at least 20-25 minutes. Married to an Irishman, she said she spends at least 8 weeks a year there and did much of the research for her novel there - including interviews with actual Travelers.

A very thought-provoking and intriguing afternoon it was. I expect we'll be hearing much more in the coming months and years from all three of these artists.

Thanks to my friend and a novelist in her own right, Katie McVay, for making the trip with me, calmly supporting my navigational skills as we made our way basically through the Philadelphia St. Patrick's Day Parade, and treating me to an extremely delicious pastry and coffee at a heretofore undiscovered (by us) Lebanese bakery called Manakesh (circa 44th and Walnut). Yum!

1 comment:

Katie McVay said...

What a fun day! It's always awesome to get your artistic geek on and support the arts at the same time...