Reading at the End of the World: Karen Thompson Walker at BookCourt

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1. Sean Daily, literary agent at Hotchkiss and Associates, Justin Thompson-Tucker, international sales at Simon & Schuster, Sarah Daily, who does marketing and communications at a secret agency. 2. Christien Shangraw, Book Court events manager, introduces the lady of the hour.

There was no sense of impending doom when Karen Thompson Walker took to the podium at BookCourt to read from her debut novel, The Age of Miracles — but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t contrary to consider catastrophe on Friday the 13th. The catastrophe at hand? The fictional slowing of the earth’s rotation in Walker’s novel, making the days ever longer. First, it’s just another hour of daylight, but as the rotation continues to slow, days stretch to forty waking hours. And you thought your insomnia was bad.

1. I knew the chances were high this might never leave my laptop,” Karen Thompson Walker, flanked by a free (!) cocktail.

Growing up in Southern California, the potential for death and destruction wasn’t new to Walker; in childhood, she faced the paradox of “knowing catastrophe looms as a possibility and then adapting and living as though it’s not true.” For her school’s annual earthquake drill, she brought a Ziploc bag of non-perishable food to last three days, “just in case.” What was in that baggie? Crackers and other snack food. Yum! Munching on saltines in the dark alongside third grade’s best and brightest while wondering if your parents are dead — that’s my kind of party. Another source of inspiration was the tsunami in Southeast Asia. When the earthquake struck the floor of the Indian Ocean, it increased the speed of earth’s rotation, shifted the earth’s axis by three inches and shortened our days by 6.8 microseconds. “The idea that it was even slightly in flux was haunting,” Walker said. Was it depressing to write about the demise of life as we know it? “There is a melancholy to it,” Walker said, “but it reminds me of how amazing everything is in everyday life.” Hence the title.

1. Have this many people ever fit into a single iPhone photo? Book groupers: Hannah Davey, Pitchaya Sudbamthad, Meena Hart Duerson, Fihn Smith, Casey Walker, Nathan Ihara and Paul Lucas, agent at Janklow and Nesbit. 2. Couples being coupley: Eva Bacon, former literary scout, now Zagat/Google editor, Logan Garrison, agent at The Gernert Company, Reuben Savits, who might work at CBS, and Lee Bacon, author of the forthcoming Joshua Dread series.

What would Walker do during the End Times, should they ever be accurately predicted? “Try as much as possible to hold on to ordinary life,” she said. Asked whether she would consider becoming an End Times expert, the answer was decidedly no. Guess I’ll stick to Christipedia. And pick up a copy of Walker’s debut.


— Erika Anderson moved to Brooklyn from Geneva, Switzerland. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts, contributes to Hunger Mountain and tweets for the Franklin Park Reading Series.

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