Keith Meacham, co-chair of this year’s Literary Award Gala, read Presumed Innocent on a beach trip in 1988. It was her first Scott Turow novel, and she was in for a surprise. “It must have just come out in paperback around then, and I remember buying it as a guilty pleasure, a beach read. Within a few pages, I knew that I had misjudged; this was no pulp thriller. I was in the hands of a gifted writer. When the movie came out years later, I was disappointed to have my personal picture of the handsome, tortured Rusty Sabitch replaced by the face of a Hollywood star – even if that face belonged to the very good-looking Harrison Ford.”
Keith and co-chair Corinne Kidd were thrilled to invite Scott Turow to receive this year’s Literary Award from the Nashville Public Library. “The Nashville Public Library has been lucky to have honored some of the greatest literary lights in America – Doris Kearns Goodwin, John Irving, David McCullough, Margaret Atwood, to name just a few,” says Keith. “Scott Turow is one of the most widely-read novelists the Library has honored in the history of the Literary Award, and we are all very excited to celebrate a writer whose broad appeal is equally matched by his literary talent – especially at a time when reading books for pleasure seems to be at an all-time low.”
Keith has some ideas about why Turow has remained so perennially popular:
Not unlike Faulkner – who carefully constructed his “own little postage stamp” of Yoknapatawpha County as the turf on which all of his novels unfold – Turow created Kindle County, a place that is at once particular and universal. It’s easy to feel as though you know the place and the people when tucking into one of Turow’s books. They are comfortable even as they disturb. The simple fact that his books are gripping and well-written – not always easy to find in popular fiction – must also be a source of his staying power. What could be better than a legal page turner whose individual sentences can stop you in your tracks for their beauty and honesty?
Turow will be in town the weekend of November 7th for all the festivities surrounding the Literary Award. He’s speaking and signing books at Montgomery Bell Academy on Saturday, November 8th at 10 am (open to the public). The Literary Award Gala Patrons Party on Friday night, November 7th, features a conversation between Turow and local luminary Jon Meacham, and Turow will also speak at the Gala Saturday night.
If you find yourself chatting with him, you might ask about his latest, Identical, another New York Times bestseller. (Just to remind you – Turow has written ten bestselling works of fiction and two works of nonfiction, including his classic account of first year at Harvard Law School, One L.) Identical tells the story of twin brothers Paul and Cass, one of whom has likely committed murder. Cass serves 25 years in prison for the murder, while Paul goes to law school, becomes a successful plantiff’s attorney, and is running for State Senate when his brother’s term finally ends. All is not, of course, as it seems – but neither is it what you might think. Identical is a legal and police procedural; that much we know Scott Turow can do well. It also subtly echoes the Greek myth of twins Castor and Pollux, born to Leda after her rape by Zeus (the Swan).
In the book’s afterward, Turow reveals that his sister Vicki was born, along with her stillborn twin, when he was three years old. “That event loomed over my childhood, and thus what it meant to be and have – and lose – a twin, and the inevitable contrast to other love relationships, has been a preoccupation of mine at some level ever since,” he writes. The book takes on a greater emotional resonance knowing this personal history.
Reading is all about emotional resonance – and so are libraries. Corinne Kidd’s deep gratitude for our downtown public library inspired her commitment to co-chair this year’s Gala:
My involvement with the Nashville Public Library blossomed a few years ago when Brock and I began taking our two young daughters to Storytime and to see the puppet shows. This wholesome family entertainment quickly became a part of our weekly routine as our girls have grown to love the characters and stories and have even learned some important life lessons. And, of course, our family is only one of many who enjoy these events. Parents, grandparents, neighbors and friends from all walks of life fill the audience each week at the Nashville Public Library. I soon realized that our library is a safe and stimulating gathering place that brings our community together and truly crosses all barriers – socioeconomic, race, and religion, to name a few.
Brock and I love to watch this diverse group of children and their families enjoying what for us has become a new hot spot in our community. More significantly, perhaps, going to the library on a regular basis is the gift of time to our children that will foster warm memories that will last forever. Lady Bird Johnson once observed – “perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest.” So each week the Nashville Public Library brings our family and our community together for a free, fun-filled hour and, as a result, I think we become a better community in some small, but significant way.
Our honoree this year, Scott Turow, also values the many benefits of libraries in our cities –particularly for our children – and is eloquent advocate for public support of libraries in our communities.
So are you, Corinne and Keith. Thank you.