Tonight, at Modern Times, two University of Iowa grads read from two books issued from University of Iowa Press. Both books were remarkably compact (both around 135 pages) and both authors had won several awards. It is here that the similarities end between Marilyn Abildskov and Merrill Feitell. (Although, you see? They also have similar first names!)
Both read for about twenty minutes: Abildskov from The Men in My Country and Feitell from Here Beneath Low Flying Planes. Abildskov’s book is a highly personal memoir set in Japan about her days as an English teacher, while Feitell’s book is a collection of short stories (and winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award).
After their readings were up, the two answered a handful of questions, before Marilyn took the mike and began interviewing Merill and expressed how astonished she was at Merill’s output, before Merill confessed that writing her California-based novel was an uphill battle.
Even so, the two ladies demonstrated that there’s one heck of a demand for Iowa writers here in San Francisco. It was SRO by the time I got there, but I somehow managed to find a strange seat watching the two authors in profile. I felt a bit like Tom Landry, which is a strange sensation to feel at a reading.
Incidentally, I’ve read The Men in My Country and I’ve been trying to talk Marilyn (a friend of mine) into a Segundo interview. I made an impassioned pitch to her that she did indeed have things to say, but we’ll see.