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Virtual Event: Richard Flanagan with Jane Hirshfield
June 3, 2021 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm PDT
About this Event
“Despair is always rational, but hope is human.” — Richard Flanagan on his new novel
Richard Flanagan is one of our greatest living writers. He’s also a joy to encounter in person: he’s warm, witty, accessible, and wise. We’re thrilled to bring Richard to you, live from his home in Tasmania, to celebrate the publication of his astonishing new novel, The Living Sea of Waking Dreams.
The Guardian called the novel a “magical realist tale of ecological anguish … [that is] also playful… at its heart, hopeful.” It is about our vanishing world — about species and ecosystems being lost (he wrote this book as fires raged across Australia), about losses of love and connection with each other in our rushed, social-media obsessed world — and, finally, about the possibility of finding our way back.
Set in Tasmania, the central story unfolds as Anna, a hyper-competent professional and the main character, and her two siblings refuse to allow the death of their aged, suffering mother, who is ready to die. At the same time, as fires darken the skies and other horror stories fill the news feeds that Anna compulsively checks on her phone, she begins to have her body parts vanish. Only some people can see what is missing. The novel’s use of stunning, fractured language embodies both the pace of modern life and our stuttering fears, our inabilities to slow down and stop consuming, stop escaping, stop avoiding the beauty before our eyes — the beauty of the natural world and the genuine love and empathy that is available to us, if only we let ourselves see it. This book will stun you with the horror of losses we’ve caused and, as we finally allow ourselves to feel the depths of this grief, with real hope for the restoration of both natural and human worlds.
Flanagan will be in conversation with internationally renowned poet Jane Hirshfield, whose most recent collection, Ledger, is a pivotal book of personal, ecological, and political reckoning. Ledger’s opening lines, invoking human responsibility and willing denial, intersect in uncanny ways with Flanagan’s novel: “Let them not say: we did not see it. / We saw.” The poetry collection, Hirshfield says, “was written in grief and into my bewilderment at our human inaction” at environmental devastation, which The Living Sea of Waking Dreams explores in prose. She writes, “Some breakage can barely be named, hardly be spoken,” but these two writers do speak it — wholly, beautifully, profoundly. Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime conversation.