GOLOCALPROV, March 1, 2015 • Robin Kall
What started out in 2002 with the selection of David Baldacci’s Wish You Well has quickly become a Rhode Island tradition complete with signage on the Big Blue Bug. Books such as: Sue Monk Kidd’s Secret Life of Bees, Sara Gruen’s Water For Elephants and Geraldine Brooks’ Caleb’s Crossing are among those which have been celebrated in the one state –one book initiative called Reading Across Rhode Island. The tradition continues with this year’s title, Norwegian By Night by Derek Miller.
Norwegian by Night highlights important themes of returning from war and growing older. The main character, Sheldon Horowitz, an ex-marine, eighty-two year old retired watch repairman warily agrees to immigrate to Norway from New York City to live with his granddaughter and her husband. Sheldon’s world is turns upside down when he witnesses a heinous crime and goes on the lam with a five-year-old child. Miller also talks about themes such as: what the role of Humanities is in our national life right now and how our own identity changes through time and is in negotiation with the places that we live.
Having lived in Barrington for several years, Miller identifies with New England and lives in Oslo, Norway with his family. He is the director the The Policy Lab and senior fellow with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Reasearch. He has a PHD in international relations from the University of Geneva, and an MA in national security studies from Georgetown University, in cooperation with St. Catherine’s College, Oxford. We are looking forward to hosting him here in Rhode Island when he joins us for the very popular May Breakfast, which will be held on May 16th. (click on link to order tickets- this event tends to sell out)
As Chair of several of the May Breakfasts, I have enjoyed working with Kate Lentz since she first joined the Rhode Island Center For The Book as its new director in the fall of 2012. Kate was formerly a librarian at the Lincoln School and has been a longtime supporter of the Rhode Island Center for the Book. Kate has been instrumental in helping the RI Center for the Book continue to evolve as it enters its second decade spreading the love of reading and writing across the Ocean State.
The 2015 Read Across Rhode Island kickoff event was held at the end of January with The Rhode Island Humanities Council. Jim Ludes, Executive Director of the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina University was the moderator for this sold-out event. Here is our virtual chat:
Robin- I hear you did a fabulous job at the RARI kick-off event. Can you please tell me a little about what was discussed, how many attended and what people were saying about Norwegian by Night?
Jim M. Ludes- We had a full house–about 100 book lovers–at the Pell Center at Salve Regina University for the kick-off of Read Across Rhode Island. The day featured a video greeting from the author, Derek Miller, who asked some terrific questions about some of the themes in the book and conversation with two of the discussion leaders–Bob Hackey from Providence College and Marta Martinez of RI Latino Arts who are helping the Center for the Book facilitate conversation across the state. There was also a terrific dramatic reading of an excerpt from the novel performed by Living Literature. It was really a great day. Not everyone there had read Norwegian by Night, yet, and we tried to avoid any spoilers. But I’ve read it, and I can tell you–it’s a great read: thoughtful, funny, moving. People are going to enjoy it.
Robin- The panel discussion was sold-out and we lucked out with the weather on Jan 31st. Do you think we have more people “hunkering down” and reading the RARI selection this winter?
Jim M. Ludes- It’s funny, in his video greeting, Derek Miller joked about all the things that Rhode Island has in common with Norway. He came up with two: it’s cold and there are trees. But even at the kick-off we didn’t have a clue about what February was going to hold for us weather-wise. I hope everyone took advantage of the opportunity to cozy-up with Norwegian by Night. There were a lot less entertaining things to do–like shoveling. But the best news is–if you were too busy digging out to read the book, there’s still plenty of time. The book is a fast and enjoyable read.
Robin- Which of the books’ themes were highlighted at the kick-off event?
Jim M. Ludes -The kick-off was really an opportunity to showcase the work of Bob Hackey from Providence College and Marta Martinez of RI Latino Arts. They will be facilitating conversations across Rhode Island around Norwegian by Night. Bob–who is also a visiting fellow at the Pell Center–is interested in the depiction of veterans and the way we honor veterans in our society. Sheldon, the main character in the novel, is a combat veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and his experiences in Korea play a central role in the novel. Marta is focused on issues of identity–and those issues run throughout the novel. Sheldon is Jewish, living in Oslo with his granddaughter, who has married a Norwegian man. They live in a neighborhood with different ethnic communities–a reflection on the changing demographics of Europe since the end of the Cold War and the rise of globalization. It’s a really rich tapestry that Derek Miller wove. And all of these issues of identity are essential to the novel.
Robin- Did anything surprising come out of the panel discussion? Sometimes themes that were more background receive a surprising amount of attention.
Jim M. Ludes- Honestly, I was mostly surprised that we didn’t give anything away! The novel is a thriller so we could have ruined the book for everyone. But we didn’t. And I promised Kate Lentz I wouldn’t do that today, either.
Robin- If there is anything you’d like to add….
Jim M. Ludes- It was such a pleasure to work with the RI Center for the Book, especially Kate Lentz whose generosity of spirit and passion for Read Across Rhode Island is inspiring. She and her colleagues at the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities do a remarkable job to keep us grappling with big human issues. We at the Pell Center were simply glad to be involved with them.
*As promised there are (three) copies of Norwegian By Night to give away. To enter please send an email to me, Robin@readingwithrobin.com, and you will be entered to win a copy. Winners will be announced on Thursday, March 5th. Please tune in to Reading With Robin radio AM790 on Friday, April 10th to hear my interview with Derek Miller.
ROBIN KALL is Rhode Island’s own book maven. From author interviews to events with best-selling authors, Robin shares her love of books wherever and whenever possible. You can connect with Robin on Facebook and follow her on Twitter, or on her website is updated constantly with all new author interviews and bookish information. Reading With Robin is on AM790 Fridays from 4-5pm and on I Heart Radio. Coming up this Friday, March 6th Robin’s guests are: authors Cynthia Swanson author of the debut novel, The Bookseller and Tom Santopietro celebrating 50 years with The Sound of Music Story.