I made it to two sessions today. The first was "Jewish Men and the Novel," which I wanted to see mostly because Edward Schwarzschild, whose book I reviewed in Shenandoah a few months ago, was reading. He read the section of Responsible Men where Nathan, the boy who has just had his bar mitzvah, meets the shady figure who is going to be his Scoutmaster in the kosher Boy Scout Troop he is being forced to join. It's a funny scene. I talked to the author after the session and was pleased to learn that he had seen, and was appreciative of, the review. I liked the book and believe that came through in the review, but it is hard to know how an author will take these things.
Also on that panel were Roy Hoffman, who read an essay about his grandfather, the inspiration for Hoffman's novel Chicken Dreaming Corn, about a Romanian-Jewish shopkeeper in Alabama in the early 20th Century. And Andrew Furman read from his novel, Alligators May Be Present, about a young Jewish man who moves to South Florida to connect with his older relatives.
Next I went to a panel at New Dominion Books called "The Truth about Fact and Fiction" or something to that effect. The panelists were historical novelists and one journalist whose non-fiction book is apparently novel-like. The novelists were Peter Quinn (Banished Children of Eve and Hour of the Cat, from which he read), James Morrow (Last Witchfinder) and Daniela Kuper (Hunger and Thirst). They were joined by journalist Julian Rubinstein (Ballad of the Whiskey Robber, who rather than read from his book sang a song about his subject. Quinn, who went first, made some excellent point about writing in the shadows of history, that he does research about his subjects and tries in his fiction not to stray from established fact, but then likes to explore the rest of the person's life--what did he or she do that isn't recorded officially? I'm looking forward to reading all these people, but Quinn's subject-matter intrigued me the most.