Who Says Literature Has To Be Boring?

1. Behind the Book’s Casey Cornelius with an ecstatic Lionel Shriver. 2. Stefan Merrill Block looks good reading.

Lionel Shriver is a literary badass. Listening to her read last night at KGB Bar for the latest installment of the Behind the Book Series was like attending a master class on how to pull off a superb reading.

“This evening, I am going to be bad,” Shriver began, removing her glasses and giving the audience a coy look. She explained that she was throwing the standard rules of author readings out the window and would not be skipping over the exciting parts of the plot just to sell more books.

She then read a climactic scene from her most recent novel, So Much for That, in which a character (spoiler alert!) castrates himself with a butcher knife. As Shriver described the glint of steel and made comparisons to raw chicken parts on a cutting board in her booming, expressive voice, the hands of several attendees reflexively flew up to cover their mouths in horror. It was awesome.

When she reached the excerpt’s end, Shriver looked up from the podium. The crowd was silent, ready to hear more. “Now that is how you end a reading,” Shriver said with a smile. “Who says literature has to be boring?”

Although Lionel Shriver stole the show, the three authors that preceded her were fresh of face, high of spirit, and have brand new books that make me want to skip my day job to read in the meadow at Prospect Park.

1. J. Courtney Sullivan: beautiful dress, beautiful book. 2. Micaela Gutierrez from Behind the Book with author Katie Arnold-Ratliff.

Writer Katie Arnold-Ratliff read from Bright before Us, which begins with a group of second graders discovering a dead body on a beach field trip. Maineauthor J. Courtney Sullivan wore the cutest bicycle-print dress and delighted the crowd with an opening scene that demonstrates just how excruciating a family dinner can be.

Prior to his reading, the charming Stefan Merrill Block shared that The Storm at the Door is based on his grandfather’s 1960s stay at the psychiatric institution Mclean Hospital. “Every morning before I started writing, I looked at a picture of my grandparents,” he said. He also began each day by reading the poems of Robert Lowell, who was a patient on the same wing as his grandfather and is characterized in Block’s new novel.

Behind the Book, a nonprofit that brings authors and their books into classrooms at low-income schools, hosted this entertaining literary event. Executive Director Jo Umans said that Behind the Book strives to “show kids that reading is one of the best things you can possibly do.” The worthiest of causes, plus they know how to have a good time. You can find out more at www.behindthebook.org.

–Lauren Dlugosz writes in Brooklyn, but her heart is in Ohio. She blogs at http://authorstalker.tumblr.com

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