Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

“Never Make Excuses for Your Writing…”

“…never explain. Let the work speak for itself.”

These words are etched in my brain. Spoken by Ellen Kushner today when I asked her if I should warn the audience at today’s reading at the Library of Congress that what I’d planned to read was a bit graphic.

What fantastic wisdom.

The funny thing is, I’ve read the exact same thing (the bloody birth scene from my book, Blood Soup) at other venues and never thought twice about it. So…what is it about the Library of Congress (or LC, as it is fondly known in library circles) that made me want to tone it down?

Hallowed Halls? Who knows…? I’m too tired to think about it tonight…but it’s something I’m going to ponder for a while….and probably revisit here later.

Here’s a photo of the Broads involved.

Me!, Sue Lange, Ellen Kushner, our Awesome LC Hostess Extraordinaire Colleen R. Cahill, and Catherine Asaro

In a nutshell: we met at LC and proceeded to a very nice venue within the Jefferson Building where we each read for 10-15 minutes, did some autographing, chatted with very interesting people, went to lunch and then returned to the library for a private tour.

  • I read from Blood Soup, of course.
     
  • Ellen read from Swordspoint (one of my favorites!) and the “not quite a sequel,” The Privilege of the Sword –Fabulous!
     
  • Catherine read from The Ruby Dice (scroll down after the jump) – I was riveted.
     
  • And Sue read a piece that she wrote specifically for reading aloud, collected in the book, Uncategorized. She had folks rolling in the aisles.

Fellow Broad Jean Marie Ward showed up to support us. It was great fun.

I snapped a lot of photos during the tour. I’m certain I’ll be sharing them here over the next couple of weeks. (Unfortunately, some of the best parts of the library I wasn’t allowed to take photos of.) I’ve linked below to the LC exhibits on line, but to get the full affect, you’ve really got to see them in person.

We got to see:

  • a Gutenberg Bible
     
  • Some fascinating Mesoamerican Art from 600-900 AD with paintings depicting Cortes’ meeting with Moctezuma, a large clay statue of a jaguar, a vase depicting the Teoihuacan-Maya War with nifty human sacrifice themes and more. (Missing from the online exhibition is my favorite: a choker necklace of 19 skulls carved from conch shells. I’d wear that.)
     
  • The only surviving copy of the 1507 world map by Martin Waldseemüller. This map is widely referred to as America’s birth certificate, since it’s the first map bearing the name America.
     

I should point out that all of this is open to the public…we were just treated to Colleen Cahill’s expertise for an extended afternoon tour. Having a personal tour guide who can answer just about any question you pose is an awesome way to explore a library.

I think my favorite part of the tour was seeing Thomas Jefferson’s Library. I could have sat on the mosaic floor of the room and absorbed the enormity of his collection: (IIRC) over 60,000 volumes, which he sold to the Library of Congress for $23,000 when he was without means to support himself. Apparently, he bought too many books. But when he got his settlement from the LC, he started a second library. My kind of man.

Engraved on the wall of the exhibit are the words of Thomas Jefferson:

I cannot live without books.

Thomas Jefferson's Library at the Library of Congress
Not my Photo.

I swear, I know exactly how he feels.

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