David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters with our host David Payne.
Julie Dina: And I'm Julie Dina.
David Payne: And for today's episode, we're going to be delving into the fascinating world of banned books. Why banned books? Well, because in the public library world, one of the highlights of September is Banned Book Week. And here to tell us and share their passion and interest for banned books are two of our librarians from the MCPL system, Danielle Deaver, who is the young adult librarian at Germantown. Welcome Danielle.
Danielle Deaver: Thank you. I'm happy to be here.
David Payne: And from Olney Library, we welcome Alessandro Russo, who is the Senior Librarian there. Welcome Alessandro.
Alessandro Russo: Thank you. I'm glad to be here.
David Payne: And um, Danielle, you've had some experience with banned books displays at Germantown?
Danielle Deaver: Yes, I have. We do banned book displays in our adult and children's sections. And this year I got to do the one in the adult section.
David Payne: That's great. And Alessandro you were telling me earlier your rebellious nature attracted you to the field of banned books?
Alessandro Russo: Yes, I believe it was when I started as a volunteer and they told me I wasn't allowed to read certain books that I was like, "Hey, I'm going to do completely opposite and I'm going to read these books."
David Payne: That's great. That's great. Well, let's start by looking at band book next week and asking you both, what's the purpose of banned books week, if I start with Danielle?
Danielle Deaver: Sure. Well, I think the purpose is basically to draw attention to the fact that all over the country every day, books are being challenged by people and even banned by library system, school systems and other -- and government agencies. And I kind of, though it had existed forever, but I found out today that it started in the early 1980s when book challenges started becoming more common.
David Payne: And you mentioned it started -- We will go back to 19, the 1980s. Do you think that over time since then it's attracted more and more interest?
Danielle Deaver: Oh, I think it definitely has. It's become, sort of, something that you see merchandised now where you can actually buy bags that have banned book titles on them. And I think it's become, you know, something that is kind of starting to attract a lot of attention and popular culture.
Alessandro Russo: And as you know, social media and it becomes more available and to see, you know, and to track news and information. I think people are getting a better understanding of what banned books are and why kind of this movement is growing in a sense.
Julie Dina: Well, since we're talking about banned books, when exactly is Banned Book Week and more importantly, how does MCPL participate in banned books week, Alessandro?
Alessandro Russo: Banned books week is from September 23rd to September 29th. And just in general, I believe our system, we do a great job in displaying banned books and kind of adding a little literature to explaining what banned books are. And we actually, I know they're doing a story time at Gaithersburg Library with a banned book.
Julie Dina: Danielle, did you have anything to add?
Danielle Deaver: No, I mean we do the displays and it actually generates a lot of conversation. We had a little girl today who came in and said, you know, "What's a banned book?" And her mother actually said, "Well, let's go over and look at them and I will tell you about that." So that was, that was really nice.
David Payne: So, I think we should, we should clarify for our listeners, Banned Books Week is actually a national event I think. Is it from the American Library Association?
Alessandro Russo: Yes, yeah.
David Payne: Can you tell us, really talk about banned books and challenged books and there's a difference between the two. Can you explain what, what the difference is Alessandro?
Alessandro Russo: So challenged book is basically presenting the question of why are we going to remove this book from a collection or why are we going to censor this book? And then, a banned book is actually if the verdict get passed by whoever saying we are officially pulling this book from the stack or the collection. So the easiest way to look at it is a challenged book is phase one and then if it goes further, phase two, is the banned book, so.
Danielle Deaver: And we actually only see a small snapshot of what it's challenged around the country. The American Library Association tracked 416 books that were challenged or banned in 2017, but 82% to 97% of book challenges are never reported to organizations that track such things. So there are probably a lot of challenges and even bans yes, going on.
Julie Dina: So what would you say is MCPL's policy regarding book challenges and has MCPL ever banned a book?
Danielle Deaver: Well, I asked around about this and people who have been here much longer than I have say that in their institutional memory, about 30 years, they have not seen or heard of any books being banned from MCPL.
Alessandro Russo: So it's actually in MCPL collection policy on page 10 section 4, Intellectual Freedom. It's, and there is -- I'll just quickly go for what we're looking for. The statement pertains to all formation formats, including print, video, audio, digital, and electronic formats. "Libraries assure that the collection is open and accessible to all residents. It is committed to well-balanced print electronic and electronic collection, which presents various points of views on all subjects, controversial or not. Libraries do not remove, restrict, or withdraw materials because they are regarded as discriminatory or inflammatory by an individual or group."
David Payne: And there you have it.
Alessandro Russo: Yes.
David Payne: So, looking at the lists over the years of banned books and challenged books, obviously a great diversity in amongst the titles that fall into that category. But what are the think of any, of the strangest reasons that you've come across for banning a book? Let's start with you Alessandro.
Alessandro Russo: My favorite is a cultism or Satanic worship, which in particular, the example was any -- the Harry Potter series when they came out and it's that kind of just an interesting way to read that book as many people read it in a completely different way. But yeah.
Danielle Deaver: The strangest reasons I found were in 1983, the Alabama State Textbook Committee wanted to ban Anne Frank's diary of a young girl because it was "A real downer."
Julie Dina: Wow.
Danielle Deaver: Yes. And in 1987, school officials in Alaska tried to, or actually did ban the American heritage dictionary because it used slang terms such as "bed," "knocker," and "balls." So they just banned the dictionary.
Julie Dina: Okay.
David Payne: Okay. On that note.
Julie Dina: On that note, now can you tell us about what are the most common reasons for challenging or banning books?
Danielle Deaver: Sure. Officially, the top three are that the material is considered to be sexually explicit, to contain offensive language or be unsuited to age group and most people who bring book challenges are parents. But a lot of people have started noticing and writing about lately the fact that a lot of the books that are being challenged and banned are books that feature diverse characters, diverse, you know -- or are written by diverse authors. And in 2015, nine of the top 10 challenged books included diverse content. They were about, you know, transgender teens, they were about LGBTQ characters. And so, that's a disturbing trend that's kind of not officially on the radar.
Julie Dina: Why do you think those are the most common ones or are the top three that keep popping up?
Danielle Deaver: Well, Professor Emily Knox in Illinois researched this topic. She looked at the ALA's annual top 10 challenged book lists from 2001 to 2015, and 29 diverse books appeared a total of 63 times on the list. And they were all -- a lot of them actually said that they were in question because they depicted racism such as, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, the Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. And, you know, she kind of brings up the fact that, you know, this is -- these books are being challenged for being about diversity implies that the topic of diversity itself is inherently wrong or controversial, which is of course, you know, extremely disturbing.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah. It's kind of like that overall discussion. Actually, I had a discussion with a colleague of mine the other day about should classics be banned because they are written in a different time period. And so, someone reading that nowadays without any kind of prior knowledge can read it as being offensive or you know, racial. But both of our curt collusions came, it's kind of like learning about history, if you kind of censor that part of history, that way of writing, how will you learn about the present and the future?
David Payne: Right. So can I ask you both to give us some examples of some recently banned, banned books? Let's start with Danielle.
Danielle Deaver: Okay, 13 Reasons Why is a teen book by Jay Asher that was made into a Netflix movie earlier this year. And that has been -- that was the number one banned book in or challenged book in 2017 because of the discussion and the themes about suicide. The book Drama, which is a children's book, a graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier, that is immensely popular in our library and I think all over the system, was challenged -- and it's also won a lot of awards. And it was challenged and banned in school libraries because it includes LGBT characters and was considered confusing.
And the other one that was kind of upsetting because I loved this book, was The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. And that's one of those books that has really drawn in even teenagers who don't particularly like to read. It shows a side of the controversies over police shootings of black unarmed teenagers that we don't often see and that's the impact on the community. And that book will also be a movie in a couple of weeks. And that was challenged because it's drug use, profanity, and offensive language. So that's just kind of a snapshot.
Alessandro Russo: And then one that has made the list of, since 2007 is one of, one of my favorite young adult books is the Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian, written by Sherman Alexie. And the, the, the reason why it keeps, it's getting challenged are you know, poverty, alcoholism, sexuality. Even though the book won a national book award, was a national book award winner, and I thought it was a -- even though it's fiction, it was a great look into living on a reservation life and kind of like the reality's a person would face day-to-day as a, especially as a teenager's point of, perspective. One of my other favorite classics that have historically been banned is Catcher in the Rye. And if anyone who read it knows the profanity and how many times the "F" word comes up in that book.
Danielle Deaver: I think it's a good book.
Alessandro Russo: But it's so -- I love it because it's so crude and it's so real, like it's just a teenager skipping school one day and doing what he has to do, you know.
Julie Dina: Yeah, but that's not you.
Alessandro Russo: No, I was the good teen.
Julie Dina: We could tell.
David Payne: So really when it comes to, to, to banned books across the whole spectrum, really we're looking at children's books as much as adult books as much as young adult books.
Alessandro Russo: Oh yeah.
David Payne: Is that correct?
Danielle Deaver: Yes. Yeah. Where the Wild Things Are, was challenged and banned when it first came out because the characters were imaginary, which some people thought I believe would be somewhat occult like. And the -- also it was just, it was very real at a time when most picture books and children's books depicted children as being, you know, good little boys and girls. These kid's, you know, hammering nails into walls and chasing the dog and running off to bed and being punished and they just didn't want to deal with it.
Julie Dina: Well, now that you've listed examples of recently banned books, can you tell us which book actually tops many of the banned book list? Let's start with you, Danielle.
Danielle Deaver: Honestly, I could not find one clear winner, not over all the years. The classics come up time and time again. Let's see, Harry Potter was challenged more than 3000 times, although it fell off the list in like the early 2000s. And Judy Bloom, who writes books for, I guess, tween and teen girls, wonderful books, she was banned quite frequently. And Maya Angelou has also been banned quite frequently. The Bible actually gets challenged and banned a lot. It was number six on this year's list.
Julie Dina: What?
Danielle Deaver: For religious content. Yes, I thought that was-
Julie Dina: That's, that's what it's for.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah.
Julie Dina: Okay.
Danielle Deaver: And also, I think more recent challenges have objected to, things like the stoning of the homosexual man in a book that I would know if I was better at the Bible.
David Payne: So when it comes to banning books, what are the, or what do you see as the determinating factors that go into banning a book?
Alessandro Russo: So there's a cool feature online that there's, it's not complete, but there's a map of showing the location of where these books have been challenged and banned. And a lot of them are in Bible Belt America, Midwest America. And so I would say just off of that information, location is a major influence, obviously content of the book and being part of the location aspect, the personal beliefs, you know.
Danielle Deaver: Yeah. Just anecdotally, I would say that if you get a big enough group of people who is challenging the book, it's going to be more likely that the ban will go through. But I think Alessandro is right, it's a lot to do with location and just what type of censorship the population supports.
David Payne: And interesting, interesting enough, I think banned books are a pretty much a worldwide phenomenon. It's not just this country, right?
Danielle Deaver: Yes.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah.
Danielle Deaver: Back to the ancient Greeks.
David Payne: Right?
Danielle Deaver: Yes. And even when they're not officially banned, my manager and I today we're, or we're talking about how customers do sometimes find ways to kind of ban them themselves. One of the branches I worked in had the racier issues of cosmopolitan turned backward so people couldn't see the cover. And she was telling me that at some libraries, the book, Go the F to Sleep was constantly being turned around and once it was moved from new books to the stacks, it just disappeared. And I did a display for Gay Pride Month in the teen section last year, and when I walked past it on the second day, all of the books had been knocked down so that they were, you know, the covers faced, were just down in the bookshelf and you couldn't see them.
Julie Dina: You're sure it wasn't construction?
Danielle Deaver: I don't think it was because the historical fiction display across the way with oddly enough totally fine.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah, I think the most recent experience would be The Fifty Shades series.
David Payne: Yes.
Alessandro Russo: Where those tend to disappear or accidentally get re-shelved somehow in a completely different place.
David Payne: Different place.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah, yeah.
Julie Dina: Which leads me to my next question. Why do you think books get banned, do you think, for offending the sensibilities of mostly one group of people or do many different groups of people have to get involved?
Danielle Deaver: I think that a lot of the people who, you know, write about this and think about it a lot more than I do, use the word fear a lot. And a lot of it is society is changing and the things that are changing in it are scary and people don't want to deal with it, they don't want to read about it and they especially they don't want their children reading about it. The largest group of people who challenge these books are parents. And I think that that, you know kind of says a lot about how we think of childhood as a protected time, that isn't quite realistic.
Alessandro Russo: And one of my favorite quotes is from a Simpson’s character saying, "Think of the children." And so when I see a banned book or I hear about a banned book, that's the first thing that comes to mind.
Danielle Deaver: "Think about the children."
Julie Dina: Exactly.
David Payne: But that leads me to my next question. I'm going to put you both, both on the spot and ask you, have either of you ever been tempted to, to ban or challenge a book? And if so, what's your response to yourself? I'll start with, with Alessandro.
Alessandro Russo: So absolutely not to the first part of that question. Even I remember in library school, we were discussing about challenged books and what happens if you find, if there's a book out there that tells you how to put a bomb together? There are certain limitations to that. And the overall idea is if the book is going to cause harm to someone or is going to hurt someone in a non-psychological manner, then it's okay.
David Payne: Mm-hmm.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah.
Danielle Deaver: Yeah, I've never been tempted to ban a book, although like Alessandro said, I mean, a lot of these, you know, if somebody writes an entire book about, you know, how to build a nuclear bomb, like he said, like, I mean, we're not going to buy it. So a lot of that kind of takes place before the book ever reaches me. But when it comes to like fiction and that kind of stuff where it's more of a judgment call, I think every person reads every book differently almost to the point where they read a different book than I would. And so, I don't feel that I need to tell them what to read, they can choose.
Julie Dina: Well, I'll start with you Alessandro because I know before the program started, you mentioned the answer to this question. Does banning a book actually encourage more people to read it?
Alessandro Russo: I believe so. And then, I don't have a psychological explanation why, but I'm going to go based off of kind of that idea when you tell someone don't do something, they're going to do the complete opposite. That, that movement it's kind of increasing too as you know, more, more diverse books get challenged and banned and kind of go against the grain of society. So.
Danielle Deaver: Yeah, I agree. I think it does, it makes them more attractive to people because they feel like they're doing something daring.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah.
Danielle Deaver: And also, I mean I think people are starting to realize that a lot of the books that are being challenged and banned are books that address important topics. There's a group called Commonsense Media and it's a nonprofit that advocates for kind of using technology and media in a positive way for children. And it gives like ratings for various TV shows and movies and stuff. And they published an article last year encouraging families to read banned books together because it was a good way to get into these sometimes difficult but really important topics.
David Payne: So again, putting you both on the spot, can you tell us what your favorite banned books are and, and why? Let's start with you Danielle.
Danielle Deaver: Oh, I have to go with the, the really obvious answer, which is the Harry Potter series.
Alessandro Russo: Oh, Harry Potter, yeah.
Danielle Deaver: I just love them for the same -- you know, I think the -- what people saw as maybe witchcraft to me was just total escapism.
Alessandro Russo: I will go with a graphic novel, i-it's the Bone Series by Jeff Smith. And I believe they got banned originally because of political views and there was some cry because there was racism and violence.
Julie Dina: And down to our final question, it's actually traditional on our show for us to ask this final question, what are you both currently reading? Let's start with-
David Payne: Banned books or otherwise.
Danielle Deaver: Right now I'm reading a book called Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano. And I actually checked it out, it was an eBook from the Overdrive app at the Kendall County Library system.
Alessandro Russo: So I usually juggle a few books at the time, but the one that I've been deep into is Jim, it's a biography, Jim Henson by Brian Jones. And it's a fascinating book and it goes beyond the Muppets Incorporate and gets perspective of everyone he has worked with, his family, a recommended read if you're a biography enthusiast.
Julie Dina: Well, I would like to say a big thank you for coming on the program today. Thank you so much for being our guests. Let's keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple Podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcasts, we'll love to know what you think. Thank you once again for listening to our conversation today. See you next time.
Summary: Freedom to read enthusiasts and MCPL librarians Alessandro Russo and Danielle Deaver talk about Banned Books Week (September 23-29, 2018), the annual awareness campaign that celebrates the freedom to read and warns of ongoing efforts to challenge and ban books.
Recording Date: September 12, 2018
Danielle Deaver, Children's Librarian at Germantown Library.
Alessandro Russo, Senior Librarian at Olney Library.
Hosts: Julie Dina and David Payne
What Our Guests Are Reading:
Danielle Deaver: Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano
Alessandro Russo: Jim Henson: the Biography by Brian Jay Jones
Books and Authors Mentioned During this Episode:
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Judy Blume, an American author best known for her children's books, whose books have been frequently challenged or banned.
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Other Items of Interest Mentioned During this Episode:
"Banned Books Are Often Diverse Books. Check the Stats." by Emily Knox
MCPL Collection Policy: The Montgomery County Public Libraries’ Collections Policy presents the strategies to develop, expand, diversify, and build 21st century library collections to meet the library needs and expectations of the Montgomery County residents/communities.
Overdrive: An online collection of e-books, audiobooks, and e-magazine available for free to MCPL library card holders.
Special Family Storytime: Banned Books: A family storytime held on September 25, at Gaithersburg Library that featured children's books which have been banned or challenged.
Lauren Martino: Hello listeners welcome to Library Matters. My name is Lauren Martino and I'm your host today. And today we're talking about the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival. And with me today is Dr. Jackson Bryer who's been involved with the festival from the very beginning in 1996 and who has edited several books about F. Scott Fitzgerald, welcome Dr. Bryer.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Hi.
Lauren Martino: We also have with us Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham, Professor Emerita at Concordia, Saint Paul, which is the birthplace of F. Scott Fitzgerald. We have with us as well Eric Carzon, who's the Branch Manager of the Twinbrook library and also very involved in this festival. Welcome Ellie.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Thank you, good to be here.
Lauren Martino: And welcome Eric.
Eric Carzon: Thanks, good to be here.
Lauren Martino: So Dr. Bryer, can you tell us a little bit about what the F. Scott Fitzgerald festival is?
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, it's as you said it started in 1996, which was the centennial year of F. Scott Fitzgerald's birth. And in that year the City of Rockville decided they wanted to do something to commemorate Fitzgerald who is buried in Rockville. We can talk about that a little later as to why he is here. And they appointed a group of citizens from the community to organize what I think they anticipated would be a one-year celebration of him. And we did that in 1996 and it was so successful that we've been doing it ever since.
It started as a one-day event and has now become a three-day event in the sense that there are programs on Thursday afternoon sponsored by one of our partners the Friends of the Library. And an event on Friday night at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda and then the main event here in Rockville all day Saturday. So it's a three-day festival. It is in many ways sort of a dual event in that it honors Fitzgerald. But it also honors writers both established writers who we honor every year with the F. Scott Fitzgerald award and also encourages younger writers of all ages to pursue writing of various kinds.
We have writing workshops and there are other programs where we frequently show a film. We also have master classes and we have in recent years affiliated very closely with the Montgomery County Public Schools and we can talk about that as well.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And the number of the writers who have been honored from really panoply of the great writers of our century beginning with William Styron, John Barth, and another Marylander and even a fantastic novelist, E. L. Doctorow. So many of them are gone now, so that it's wonderful that we had them and that fledgling writers got to meet them and talk to them and go to a master class with them.
Lauren Martino: You’ve gotten over twenty years of writers you’ve honored in this festival.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And the last year was Annie Proulx, she was terrific.
Lauren Martino: So when are the dates of the festival?
Dr. Jackson Bryer: It begins on the afternoon of October 18th at Strathmore Mansion with a program in the afternoon. It continues on Friday night October 19th at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda and then all day Saturday October 20th at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville.
Lauren Martino: Eric can you tell us a little bit about MCPL’s role in this festival?
Eric Carzon: Sure, yeah MCPL is very pleased to be part of the committee this year. And we've planned several events throughout the library system to compliment the festival. So the first one that's coming up is Tuesday, September 18th at 06:30 PM at the Twinbrook Library. And so we'll be doing our Twinbrook Library book discussion group.
And we're going to discuss Richard Russo's book Trajectory and Richard Russo is this year's honoree at the festival. So if you want to be part of the book discussion group, you can give the branch a call at 240-777-0240, or just show up at the program, try to read the book of course before you come, but --.
Lauren Martino: That always helps.
Eric Carzon: We’ll take everybody who comes.
Lauren Martino: But you're going to spoil the end.
Eric Carzon: Yeah. And then on Monday, September 24th at 07:00 PM which is F. Scott Fitzgerald's birthday, The Rockville Memorial Library is going to have a screening of Bernice Bobs Her Hair, which is a movie that was inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story of the same title. We’ll also have a little bit of birthday cake courtesy of the Friends of the Library Montgomery County. And we’ll be showing it using MCPL’s new streaming movie service called Canopy, which people can access online by the way as well.
On Thursday, September 27th at 06:30 PM at the Twinbrook Library Ellie and Jackson who are here today are going to discuss the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories, Winter Dreams and Babylon Revisited. And then on Saturday, October 6th at 03:00 PM at the Twinbrook Library, we're going to show the movie Benjamin Button, which is also inspired by an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. And then we'll have a discussion afterwards with members of the F. Scott Fitzgerald festival planning committee.
And then finally on Thursday, October 11th at 06:30 PM at the Twinbrook Library, the three student finalists from this year's F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival Short Story Writing Contest will be invited to read and discuss their short stories with the audience.
Lauren Martino: Are there other events related to the festival going on elsewhere?
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: There's luncheon that is given at the Strathmore Mansion that Jackson mentioned the three-day event, so that's on a Thursday. Reservations do need to be made through the Friends of the Library. And it's a smaller event, but I think that the room perhaps hold 60, so people do need to make a reservation, but it does get you in the spirit of the event and then on Friday at the Writer’s Center, Jenny Boylan who's going to introduce Richard Russo, the next day will be there to be honored herself.
She is very interesting writer I don't know what you know about her, but she has made some important changes in our life and she'll be there with other writers who will read in the honor of Jenny Boylan and Richard Russo. So it's really literary rich time. And then on Saturday the number of people who are doing workshop, six different local writers are with these more fledgling writers in small groups. They're coming and they range from Ethelbert Miller to --.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Susan Coll.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Yes and her husband.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Patricia Browning Griffith. There are two fiction workshops, two nonfiction workshops. Margaret Talbot who is a staff writer for The New Yorker is going to --.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: To be honored.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Do going to do a nonfiction workshop as the Ethelbert Miller is doing a memoir workshop and Susan Coll and her husband, Paul Goldberg are doing fiction workshops as well. So there's a little something for everybody that's for beginning writers and immediate writers, anybody who is interested. We try each year to have a theme. This year in honor of Richard Russo, who has done a lot of work with first generation immigrant writers in his native state of Maine, in his honor we've kind of structured some of the festival around the theme of literature without borders.
And two other writers who are reading on Friday night at the Writer’s Center, not Jenny Boylan, but the other two writers are themselves not native to this country and are in sense immigrant writers. And so we want in some ways to stress that we think that's very important. I'm sure Richard Russo will speak about that and about the program that he is involved in in Maine that encourages young first generation Americans to write about their experiences.
Lauren Martino: So we have a lot of busy people in Montgomery County and there will be people that can only do maybe one or two of these events. What would you – okay, let's do it for writers and for non-writers because it sounds like there's a lot of things out there, if you are a writer what is the one event you wouldn't want to miss.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I think you wouldn't want to miss the writer workshops and the master class, those are on Saturday. And you go to ‘FScottfestival’ all one word ‘.org’ and make your reservation for that. You do need to sign up for a writing workshop, a specific one because they are contained, they are small. The event I don't think we said where it is, it’s in Richard Montgomery High School which is large – as large – some large and some small classrooms just rather perfect for our uses and a large parking lot. And it’s very easy to find, its right out Rockville pike. It's very easy.
So if you want the master class I mean if you want the workshops, you do need to register. But there also people can come in and there is a registration fee it's very modest. But you can come in for anything, you can come in just to hear Russo or you can come in in the morning and see the movie at which she will be present to talk about it. There are two wonderful movies made of his books, The Empire Falls and Everybody’s Fool, wonderful movies and we're going to have one of those.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Nobody’s fool, it's Nobody’s Fool.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Nobody’s fool.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: And he'll be talking about the film after the film is presented. Also in order to maintain the connection with the F. Scott Fitzgerald, we're very-very pleased this year that F. Scott Fitzgerald's granddaughters, Eleanor Lanahan and Cecilia Ross have agreed to come to the festival. They came to one of the earlier festivals, but they have been back in probably 15 or 20 years and they're coming this year along with Eleanor's daughter, Blake Hazard who is F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's great granddaughter and who also now works with her mother and her aunt in administering the Fitzgerald estate. And so they will be participating in a panel discussion on Saturday afternoon talking about what it is like to be the heirs of a great American writer and also what it is like to administer the estate of a great American writer. So we're particularly pleased this year that they're going to be with us.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Blake is also a singer. And they're going to be speaking exactly across the pike from the grave of their great grandfather. You know that both Fitzgeralds and other members of the family I think about six or seven other graves of Fitzgerald’s are right across the street in the Saint Mary's cemetery. There is a tour, but you don't need to take the tour to go to see the graves, anybody can go at any time and park back by the school and see.
So we beat on boats against the current on the gravestone and whatever little goodies people have left bottles, roses, signs, in honor of the Fitzgeralds. Scott was moved there; he was buried in another non-sacred plot close by until his daughter until his wife’s death. And then his daughter and -- I don't know how she arranged it, it's quite amazing because I don't think they were good church goers all their lives, but they are now in St Mary's churchyard.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: And so is their daughter?
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Yes.
Lauren Martino: So can you tell us a little bit about the Fitzgeralds connection to Rockville in Montgomery County. Why were they buried?
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, Fitzgerald’s father's family was from Montgomery County and even though Fitzgerald lived most of his life in Midwest and in the east, he always had a real connection to his father's family. And when he died he died very suddenly and unexpectedly. And everybody involved his daughter and his widow all knew that where he wants to be buried was in Montgomery County with his father's family. And as Ellie said he was originally buried in the Union Cemetery not in the church cemetery and so was Zelda. And then I think in the middle of seventies maybe their daughter arranged to have them move to Saint Mary's which is where many of the other parts of the family are, but it's true his father's family that he has the connection with Montgomery County and he came here often to visit. And he lived in Baltimore for fairly long period of his life, so he has that Maryland connection as well.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And close by Washington to, I believe his parents were married there actually.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah, yeah. So that's the connection. And as Ellie said the last -- this is the second time we've been at Richard Montgomery with the festival. And you can literally look out the windows of the Richard Montgomery High School Library and see the graveyard where the Fitzgerald plot is. So you couldn't be in a more appropriate spot for an F. Scott Fitzgerald festival.
Lauren Martino: I wonder what it would be like to go to school in that place and then live in the shadow of this and your English teachers can always keep pointing to it.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: It would be wonderful. I hope they all know that where the -- how close they are to a great legend, one of our great, maybe if you name five of the greatest I would put Fitzgerald in there.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Maybe they work that into their paper grading, F. Scott Fitzgerald is buried here, you can do better. D-.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: When you go there that spot is in the middle of a terrible traffic pattern and when you're standing there in that little graveyard, every time I've been there it seems peaceful somehow. It's quite remarkable and there is a kind of sacred quality about it. His mother actually died in Montgomery County.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: We're also very pleased that we have a increasingly close connection with the Montgomery Public Schools. We have for many years had two short story contest as part of the festival; one for -- is open to anyone who lives in the DC Maryland, Virginia area and the other is open to students in Montgomery County. And we gave two awards; well actually we gave an award for a winner in each contest and a couple of runners up in each contest.
Also in the last few years, we have asked each Montgomery County Public High School to name one of their students an F. Scott Fitzgerald scholar and those individual students attend the festival as our guest. They have special programs with the honoree and with other special people, master classes. They receive a book signed by the honoree and also they get a certificate indicating that they have been selected as an F. Scott Fitzgerald scholar.
So that’s quite a distinction and almost every high school last year name somebody as a Fitzgerald scholar and we're hoping I mean we usually have between 15 and 20 high school students who attend. The winner of the high school short story contest does get to speak at the festival. And as Eric said this year we're very excited because the libraries are going to have a program where all the finalists, the three finalists for the student short story contest will be able to read their stories and speak about them at the public library as Eric mentioned.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And nobody will know who the winner is, of course see that will heighten the interest. We hope that everybody who hears the stories will want them to come to here who was named though the actual winner of that contest. Stories are wonderful. Last year's story was just a marvelous, intercultural story, an intergenerational story, very sensitive story. So I'm looking forward. They're printed in our program too.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Is it too late to enter the contest? When does the—
Dr. Jackson Bryer: I think the student short story contest deadline has passed, but I think the adult or open short story contest deadline is August 11th.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Yes.
Lauren Martino: So for next year, yeah.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Is past, but people should keep it in mind for next year.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: They should practice.
Lauren Martino: About a year to work on it.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Can you imagine for your college entrance, I mean intrinsic reward of the honor is great. But also it does not look bad on your college application.
Lauren Martino: Who knows maybe you'll have an honoree for the F. Scott Fitzgerald award one year that's previously won the short story contest.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: In 2040?
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Winner, let me look that.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, one year when we applied for a grant, one of their letters of support was from a previous winner of the short story contest who has gone on to become a fairly accomplished short story writer and he testified to how important winning the festival's short story contest have been in his career.
Lauren Martino: Wow.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: He is not a young person, I mean he is an adult who has submitted a story one and was very encouraged by that, and he’s continued to write. I mean one of the things that could easily happen and he would be a perfect candidate. He could very easily be one of our workshop leaders some day and that would be a wonderful succession of having a previous short story winner be the workshop leader in a fiction workshop.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: That such a good idea we should put that on our agenda. I think that's a wonderful idea. When I go back to the family a moment if I may because I think we left this out, it's pretty important. Francis Scott Key of course is an ancestor of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Lauren Martino: Really.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Hence his name.
Lauren Martino: Fitzgerald.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Yes and of course Maryland. So that's very important Maryland connection.
Lauren Martino: Are there other any references to Maryland or to Montgomery County in any of their works.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I think there's a beautiful one. Jack will elaborate on this, he probably knows the passage by heart but Dick Diver in Tender is the Night which is autobiographical of the marriage particularly much more so than the Great Gatsby as you probably know. But he goes home – his father dies and he goes home which is – I don't remember if the place is actually named but I always get the sense of coming back to Montgomery County. It's a southern place in the novel. And he thinks about tradition and his fine father is having a crisis in his own life and he remembers his father's strong ethos. It's a very moving passage and one of the most autobiographical I think in all of Fitzgerald is about the middle of the book.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah I mean the passage is something -- he also wrote a very famous essay about his father when his father died. I mean it's kind of ironic because his father was a terrible failure as a businessman and as a wage earner. But it's interesting because his mother was by far the dominant person in his life and his mother's family supported Fitzgerald. And his father for most of his life because his father -- his grandfather on his mother's side was a very successful I guess you'd say grocer; he ran a grocery store and he died – very relatively young and left quite a bit of money.
Fitzgerald's father on the other hand never could keep a job, but Fitzgerald learned from his father what you might call the graces of the south. I mean he said at one point maybe in this essay I can't remember that he always referred judgments to his father because he always thought his father had that sense of noblesse oblige and southern grace that he admired and you know that cut across whether he was successful or not.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Actually when you think about the Great Gatsby begins with a reference to the next father, I don't know, you know my father taught me to reserve all judgment. I don't know whether that came from Fitzgerald’s own father or not but it is an homage to fathers.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah and so his father represented something very important to him beyond whether he was successful. I mean he never got over -- Fitzgerald never got over when his father lost his job. They lived in upstate New York for a while, and he came home one day and said he lost his job. And Fitzgerald was very young at the time probably seven or eight years old and he said that was a devastating moment in his life. But he still remained – had a tremendous respect for his father.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: The issue of money of course is so central in all of Fitzgerald's work in most 20th century fiction I guess. But his first biography -- one of his first biographers, Malcolm Cowley, I think it was who said that F. Scott Fitzgerald resembled the little boy at the candy store window with his nose pressed against it looking and not able to afford what was within, just a kind of devastatingly sad picture and not untrue.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah I mean he grew up I mean all you have to know about Fitzgerald is to go to Saint Paul and see where his house was. And his house was across the street from the backyards of all the biggest houses in Saint Paul and he was -- his friends, his playmates were all the children of Saint Paul's richest and most successful citizens. And because of his grandfather's money, he was able to go to a very good private school. But he was always aware that he was not one of them and he was always aspiring in a way to be one of them at the same time is realizing that was never going to be possible. And all his work is filled with that sort of double sense of envy and regret that you find just by seeing the physical situation in Saint Paul.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And his story, the rich boy, of course starts with one of the most famous served catalogs of why the rich are different. It's the one that Hemingway made fun of. but it's much more true than Hemingway's attacked on it. The rich are different.
Lauren Martino: And it's suppose around here there's a lot of that that resonates just with the extreme wealth we have --.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: These days.
Lauren Martino: Yeah especially in the DC area.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: We ought to say something about Richard Russo who is this year's honoree. He is a marvelous, marvelous novelist; Empire Falls which won the Pulitzer Prize is probably his most famous book, but he has got several other wonderful books.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I've been reading the older books now, I’ve read Everybody and Nobody's Fool. Now I'm reading Bridge of Sighs. It did get an award, but I don't -- I think it got overshadowed later.
Lauren Martino: There's a warmth to him. He loves his characters. There's humor. He puts them in ridiculous situations. In Bridge of Sighs, a little boy gets stuck in a trunk and people make love over the trunk. And I mean that’s the beginning of the book.
Lauren Martino: He loves such a crazy situation, yeah, really.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: You know, the situations people get in and he pulls them out of them with the most loving, that's the word -- maybe that's too sloppy a word Jackson, but I get the sense that he loves his characters and he loves America.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, he's also written one of the funniest novels about academic life called Straight Man which is based on his long experience as a college teacher. It's a very-very funny novel. The other thing about Richard Russo that I'm particularly looking forward to hear -- in my experience he is one of the most articulate writers I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. What I mean is there a lot of writers who are brilliant writers, but who don't necessarily talk that well about what they do that doesn't mean they're not good writers they just write, they don't talk about it.
Richard Russo talks beautifully about the art of writing, the art of fiction, about teaching. And I'm really looking forward to his master class where he'll talk about the craft of writing and will answer questions. I don't know anybody I go to a lot of readings where writers come to town with their books. I don't know anybody who is more interesting and more articulate in a Q&A than Richard Russo. So I recommend that as one of the features of this year's festival. I'm really looking forward to. And he is a wonderful person as Ellie says in his books you can feel that.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: You wrote a memoir about his -- it's ostensibly about his mother. But of course he is the other major character and he is a professor and writer in the book. So there you get a lot of the pressures on a writer, time pressures and how you advance in academia and how you blend that with the needs of your family. Again, the portrait of his mother is affectionate and a slightly humorous ironic. And it's a wonderful book, it's a wonderful memoir.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: I think we have to say something about Jenny Boylan. We ask the honoree every year who he would like to have introduced him or her at the event and it's usually another writer and we try to honor that request. And this year Richard Russo ask the Jenny Boylan be asked to introduce him.
Jenny Boylan is a Professor at Barnard College in New York, but for many years she was James Boylan at Colby College. One of his colleagues and she underwent a sex change about 15 or 20 years very publicly. She has written about it. And so has Richard Russo written about the trauma that he went through had seeing his best friend become a woman in a way and how difficult that was for him initially and now they obviously have maintained the friendship. And I'm really looking forward to meeting Jenny Boylan, as I say she has written a couple of books about her experiences. And I think people will be interested in her story as well as in Richard Russo's.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: By the way you said the word books gives me a chance to say that thanks to Montgomery County Library. We will be selling books by all of the workshop people, Richard Russo of course and Jenny Boylan.
Lauren Martino: The Friends of the Library will be selling this.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Yes, at the Saturday event.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And also on the Friday event.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: And the writers are usually very-very willing to sign copies of their books and to -- writers always like to see their books sold. And if signing them will help sell them, they'll do it.
Lauren Martino: So how do you choose the recipient of the F. Scott Fitzgerald award every year? Who does the choosing?
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well the committee, the committee basically talks it over each year and we come up – I mean I have to admit that sometimes we ask somebody and they can't do it. And so then we have to go to another choice, although in recent years it's very interesting when we first started out we were very lucky we got a couple of very good writers at the very beginning. And then people began to turn us down because we don't offer a lot of money and there isn't much prestige.
But then as we began to honor certain writers, other writers who had previously turned us down suddenly were willing to come. I mean I very fondly remember John Updike refusing us until we gave the award to Norman Mailer. He somehow found it in his schedule to be possible to come to Rockville and get the award. As Ellie said we've had just a star studded array of writers over the years. I think we're now up to 14 Pulitzer Prize. Well, not 14 different writers, but 14 Pulitzer Prizes won by the writers that we have honored.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: The real reason we have these people, they're willing to come here that they know Jackson Bryer who has edited their work or introduce them in some other context. And so we sit at the meeting and Jackson says, “Why don't I write so and so,” and we say, “Oh, sounds like a very good idea.”
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, that's partially true, but also the festival now has become well enough known. So that when we invite a writer, they know who the other writers are that we've honored and they are very pleased to be on the list now. So I think that's part of it too.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I noticed that Richard Russo's book – no, no, I noticed that Robert Olen Butler’s book, I just read another one of his mysteries and it features the F. Scott Fitzgerald award on the back of the, you know, on his credits.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Oh, which is it.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Biography it is featured along with the Pulitzer.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, last year we honored Annie Proulx and this year the national book festival in September 1st is honoring Annie Proulx. They got the idea from us for sure.
Lauren Martino: Are there any other previous honorees you'd like to mention?
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, two years ago we honored Garrison Keillor who is a great Fitzgerald fan. And he very generously agreed to do a program on Friday night at Strathmore. And he donated the entire receipts from that event, which we split with Strathmore. And as you can imagine filling Strathmore brought in a great deal of money and we're not a particularly wealthy organization. And because of his generosity, we are in much better financial shape than we were before he did that. And I know he has had some trouble since then, but we remain extremely grateful to him for that.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And he was wonderful with the high school students. He refused to let anybody other than the high school students for that part of the day the next day. And you could hear this laughter – all these high school students and they never did tell us what they talked about it. But he charmed them and he certainly charmed us and --.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well and when we introduced the Fitzgerald scholars which is the group that he met with, he knew something about every single one of those students and had talked to each of them individually. So given the difficulties he has been having I think it needs to be said that he certainly was a model honoree for us.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: He was indeed. He was wonderful. And I should mention that there's one local honoree, wonderful-wonderful writer I'm sure you know Alice McDermott. She has been an honoree and she is also participated in other parts of the festival, otherwise there's no geographical limit to where we find the people. But it’s wonderful to have her be part of it.
Lauren Martino: I have a confession to make I have not read any F. Scott Fitzgerald since high school and I did not enjoy the Great Gatsby in high school. Is there anything you can say to all of those people like out there like me who have just not taken a look at F. Scott Fitzgerald since their, you know, adolescent brains were –
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, I think you need to look, read them as an adult.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: You grown into him.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: I think I'm retired as a college teacher and I now teach adults, Ellie does too. And the difference between reading when you're 15, 16 and 17 years old and when you're an adult is a very different experience. I don't guarantee that you would love Fitzgerald now, but I think you are to give him another chance because I think after you've lived a little while you might see things in him. Also The Great Gatsby is I think a great novel not because of its story or not because of anything other than how beautifully written.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Style.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Just is almost, you can read The Great Gatsby almost the way you read a poem word for word. It's just beautifully-beautifully written and I think you should give it another chance. But you could also start with some of his short stories which are obviously briefer and can be read more quickly. And you know he may not be to your taste, but he seems to be to the taste of a lot of, as I said a lot of modern writers who admire him a great deal.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: The style is magnificent and of course he rewrote so many times. Gradual dissertations have been written on comparing version one degree -- Version 7.
Lauren Martino: Version 7.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: The green light didn't appear at first as it does in the beginning, it just appeared later. And his wonderful editor, Maxwell Perkins relationship is so famous that there's a whole separate movie about Maxwell Perkins suggested that it become a motif and he put it in. There was a big debate about the title of the book that is very revealing about what he thought of the book because it didn't begin as The Great Gatsby. There are a number of other titles among Ash Heaps and Millionaires for example.
But as Jackson said the story of people with varying degrees of selfishness and jealousy and desires is wonderful on one level. And although my daughter when she read it when she was too young she said, at age 15 she said, “I think they're very immature people”. That was my impression too. But then you read it and you realize well of course that's the point in a way I mean Daisy is not worth it the dream but to have such a dream. And then to couch it in language which is poetic. I've heard it read well, Jackson has seen the play which is the whole book.
And in Saint Paul, Garrison Keillor again arranged a reading of the entire book all one day with famous people reading each chapter. When you hear it and you can't skim, you can't skip over anything. You realize that it's a, there's humor in it that you missed the first time, little ironic twist stuck in and there's just great beauty. And these lists of things are all interesting in themselves, you know the guests who come, their names and so forth. And then there are historical people and then the man who fixed the World Series, for example you learn a little bit of history if you have a good English teacher. I taught high school before I taught college at Stone Ridge.
Lauren Martino: Okay.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: For 18 years. So there are hundreds and hundreds of young women out there who have -- I hope have a happy version of the book.
Lauren Martino: Do you think that's a plug for listening to the audiobook verses reading it, would this make a good audiobook just because you can't skip over the language.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I like to do that because you -- I think you need both. But yes you do hear things differently and you don't miss it if you are attentive, you don't miss anything so and you don't mind traffic jams or doing the dishes or whatever it is that's mindless while you listen.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, it show that Ellie was referring to is a show called gats in which the elevator repair service, theatre company had an actor who read the entire text of Gatsby while other actors were silently acting out parts of the book. And this year pleasure of hearing this actor read the book. He didn't act the book, he just read it. He didn't attempt to act the roles, he just simply sat there and read the book and it was incredible.
And as Ellie said it brought out how very humors in a clever way Fitzgerald's languages. There were a lot of laughs in that audience and a lot of chuckles and it was an incredible experience just to hear the book read out loud.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: In some way it is more satisfying than the movies.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Oh the movies, yeah. The movies can’t because the book isn't really a great book because of the story. It's a book -- it's a great book because of the way it's written and the movies can't convey that. They've tried with having voice over say some of mixed lines but you just can't convey, it’s a different medium, you can't convey it.
Lauren Martino: Are there any particular movies based on Fitzgerald books that you think are particularly well done or particularly poorly done, which you’d like to talk about?
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, it's interesting I don't think that the movie versions of the Great Gatsby, the two most recent ones are all that bad.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I love the Robert Redford movie.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah, I -- there -- it's interesting because each generation does a version of The Great Gatsby that is that generation’s version of The Great Gatsby. And each version is slightly different because each version is made by a movie maker who sees different things in the book. And I thought Baz Luhrmann’s version the most recent one was really quite good.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I hated it.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah, I know a lot of people did.
Lauren Martino: Why did you hate it?
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: It was too noisy and too big and there was a psychiatrist who's not in the book and bunch of things like that. But we showed -- Jackson arranged for us to see the Alan Ladd version that’s a 1940 or something.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: It ’45 or ’46, I can’t remember.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Which completely changes the story, it’s black and white in it.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah, but it's a gangster movie.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Yes.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Because that was what was popular, you know, it starts with a silent stretch of film where some people do a gangland killing. And I assume you're supposed to believe that Gatsby's henchmen are doing that. And it's just a completely forties version of Gatsby. And in a way I mean I certainly respect Ellie’s opinion of Baz Luhrmann’s movie but each generation should interpret the novel the way that generation wants to interpret it.
A book isn't static, a book, you know, a book means different things to different people. And it means different things to different movie producers and directors and writers. And the very fact that it's been done so many different times says something about its enduring power.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: There had been a couple of television, many episode ones like six hour depictions which have been good to.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah and you know there's a movie of Tender is the Night that's pretty awful. And but – again, it was a testimony to the fact that somebody thought it was worth doing. And there've been dramatic versions of both I mean Gatsby was made into a play in the twenties and it's been adapted into a play by a contemporary playwright. And I've seen it and it's pretty good. He is smart enough to remain pretty faithful to the book.
I think that same playwright is done it adaptation of Tender is the Night. Fitzgerald seems to hold an appeal for people part of the reason obviously he holds an appeal for people is that his and Zelda's life story is kind of interesting. I mean people, you know, there's a certain glamour involved with the Fitzgerald’s --.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: They defined the Jazz Age.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah and so people are interested for that reason but one --.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: He also wanted to be a playwright, I mean he did write plays, not successfully [Indiscernible] [00:41:46].
Dr. Jackson Bryer: He wrote one very unsuccessful, but --.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: He wrote them when he was a kid.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah, he did and he also wrote plays at Princeton. He wrote the triangle club plays, but you know part of the reason he survives is Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald are one of the most glamorous literary couples of the 20th century.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And tragic.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: And tragic and somewhat hard to understand like all marriages it's a mystery and it's fascinating to people. But one would hope that if they're attracted by the story of their lives that they'll sit down and read the books and see that the real value is in the books.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: The President, the new president who is taking over from Jackson of our committee is undertaking a study of Zelda's art, the visual art. And I think she'll have a good book someday about it. And she gave a lecture at Twinbrook which was wonderful I thought. You know everything -- she fascinates people and to the extent that they know more about her I just think people will turn to the books more they will see details in there. In the diver marriage in Tender is the Night, there is a lot of the real Zelda.
Lauren Martino: So we like to ask all of our guests at the end of the episode, what are you reading right now, we'll start with Eric.
Eric Carzon: I am currently reading a short book it's called ‘The Poet Slave of Cuba’ and it’s fascinating. So it's a story of this poet, he is a Cuban poet and he was a slave as well. And it just -- so it's sort of an autobiographical poem about his life.
Lauren Martino: Like a book length poem?
Eric Carzon: Yeah, I mean it’s a fairly short book, but yeah it is fascinating read and it's just a very-very odd situation for this poor person, because he was a slave and then the rich slave owner sort of saw something in him, so he sort of ripped him away from his parents. And you know, gave him a lot of opportunities, but he is still a slave. Like even at some point in the story the slave owner who is a little crazy, frees his mother and father, but keeps him as a slave. So like he is a slave and his parents are free and he can't be free until she dies and it just goes south from there. So very fascinating story so far and I'm about I guess two-thirds of the way through.
Lauren Martino: All right, thanks Eric. How about you Jack.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, I just finished reading Anne Tyler's most recent book ‘Clock Dance’ and I'm a great Anne Tyler fan. We'd love to get her to the festival, but she doesn't go anyplace so. We've tried and now I'm reading a novel by a man name Kent Haruf called Benediction and -- which I'm liking very much. But I certainly recommend Anne Tyler to anybody who has never read her work. She's quite something and she's local. She writes mostly about Baltimore.
Lauren Martino: Ellie what are you reading.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I'm reading Richard Russo. Everything I can get and I’m so enjoying that the characters are so marvelous. But I'm also going back to Robert Olen Butler who was – he has participated in two separate years and he started writing mysteries that are, sort of crime espionage stories that are set in World War I with, you know, Zeppelins and a character whose mother plays Hamlet.
Lauren Martino: Oh wow.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: His mother plays Hamlet. And it's really great fun and so I have read a couple of those for entertainment. He is a person who is written very serious books about Vietnam experience, you know, veterans and so forth and love stories. But he is also written some wild far out things like a collection of short stories based on imagined and real enquirer headlines, you know, tomato speaks for the child and the family or you know, really very strange stories. He has got a great imagination, so that’s fun.
Lauren Martino: So he is just trying to come up with a situation where this would make sense.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: One of the things about this festival is and I think Jackson so much for inviting me to be part of it, he was one of my advisors at Maryland. But one of the great things is you get to know the authors who come and because you know you're going to be meeting them, you want to know their work. And for example I wouldn't -- I don't think I would've read works about a sports writer like Richard Ford, but what a deeply satisfying experience it is to read his novels and that was, you know, the work of another summer for example. And then I really -- James Salter who wrote about Flying Aces in Korea.
Again sort of guy fiction, but it turned out no, no, not so, they're universal and they're wonderful. And having the privilege of taking him to the grave to see the Fitzgerald grave shortly before his own death – shortly after our festival is something that personally I treasure a great deal.
Lauren Martino: Eric, Jackson and Ellie, thank you so much for your time today and sharing your wealth of knowledge. We really enjoyed this conversation and I am so glad we could have you here today.
Eric Carzon: Thank you. Thank you, it’s our pleasure and we also hope to see you at the MCPL events and at the festival.
Lauren Martino: Yes. Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple podcast app or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also please review us and rate us on Apple podcasts. We'd love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
Summary: F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival organizers Dr. Jackson Bryer and Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham, as well as Twinbrook Library Manager Eric Carzon, talk about the upcoming festival, as well as the life, work, and Montgomery County connections of jazz-era author F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Recording Date: August 9, 2018
Dr. Jackson Bryer, author of several books about F. Scott Fitzgerald and one of the founding organizers of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival.
Eric Carzon: Branch Manager of Twinbrook Library and MCPL liaison to the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham, Professor Emerita of Concordia University Saint Paul and one of the organizers of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival.
Host: Lauren Martino
What Our Guests Are Reading:
Eric Carzon: The Poet Slave of Cuba by Margarita Engle
Books, Authors, and Other Media Mentioned During this Episode:
"Babylon Revisited" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Everybody's Fool by Richard Russo
Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo
Trajectory by Richard Russo
Straight Man by Richard Russo
Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Vegetable, or From President to Postman (play) by F. Scott Fitzgerald
"Winter Dreams" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Other Items of Interest Mentioned During this Episode:
The Elevator Repair Service Theater Company: Performs original works with an ongoing ensemble.
F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival: This literary festival features writing workshops, panel discussions, the presentation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award to a prominent author (the 2018 recipient is Richard Russo), and much more. The festival honors the works of jazz-era author F. Scott Fitzgerald and as well as the work of current, prominent authors. The festival also supports and encourages aspiring writers and students interested in the literary arts. The festival takes place Saturday, October 20, 2018 at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, MD. There is an opening lecture by National Book Foundation Executive Director Lisa Lucas on Thursday, October 18, as well as a special event Friday evening, October 19,"Readings in Tribute to Richard Russo and Literature Without Borders." MCPL will host several Fitzgerald related programs before the festival begins.
Friends of the Library, Montgomery County: A nonprofit organization that supports MCPL by providing supplemental funding, programs, materials, and equipment.
Kanopy: MCPL's free, online movie streaming service. Includes film festival favorites, award-winning documentaries, indie films and world cinema.
The Writer's Center: A literary organization in Montgomery County, MD hosting writing workshops and literary events to promote the craft of writing for people of all backgrounds.