by Sara Elliott Holliday
The New York Society Library
Most Author Series events focus on recently published nonfiction books, plus the occasional novel. Speakers include both established authors, like Caroline Alexander, and people notable for varied accomplishments, such as Renée Fleming. Other past speakers include Benita Eisler, Shirley Hazzard, Walter Isaacson, Erica Jong, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Wendy Wasserstein, Robert A. Caro, Tom Wolfe, Dr. James Orbinski, and Bill Moyers. Topics have covered everything from the history of Manhattan (Russell Shorto, 2005) to the genocide in Rwanda (Paul Rusesabagina, 2007).
Audience members appreciate the chance to hear and meet an author they’ve enjoyed or gain a little education on a new subject. They don’t hesitate to ask demanding questions or even to disagree with the speaker; sometimes the question-and-answer session goes on for almost as long as the lecture.
Caroline Alexander’s event on The War That Killed Achilles was a particularly ideal one because it combined the classic of classics, Homer’s Iliad, with a trenchant application of its message to contemporary warfare. It is revealing to see how relevant Homer’s sense of tragedy is to today’s conflicts across the globe. The evening was also enriched by the beautiful voice of Simon Prebble, reading of the death of Hector.
For twelve years the Author Series has brought together recently published authors and appreciative audiences, and we are enjoying another excellent season in 2009-2010.