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Book Club Fri Dec 16 2011

Gather 'Round Hearth + Shelf

On Wednesday night a group of people--some strangers and some friends--gathered in the very cozy, very lovely apartment of Time Out food critic Julia Kramer. With her, they excavated moments of her life, from little girl-hood to now, via a few carefully selected books from her personal library. It's difficult to consider Kramer, or anyone else from the tightly packed group, a stranger now.

The intimate gathering is one of many to come as part of Sara Knox Hunter's new event series entitled, Hearth + Shelf. Knox Hunter will find one new host a month to open his or her home to groups like this one--anywhere from 10 to 20 people--and speak on any topic they choose using any books that work within it.

"I leave it to the host," Knox Hunter said. "It's a casual lecture--it's approachable and informative. There's a void in the real world for people who want to engage in in depth conversation about what they're reading and what they're interested in."

Knox Hunter aims to fill the same void with her newly created artist residency, Summer Forum for Inquiry and Exchange, which will have its first session in July of 2012. The weeklong escape centers around core texts to be assembled by a panel this winter in keeping with the week's theme, Community, Utopia, and the Individual Subject. Hearth + Shelf works to generate a similar text driven dialogue and taps into a certain voyeuristic urge another person's bookcase so often conjures.

"Every time you go into someone's house you love looking at their bookcase," Knox Hunter said. "It's a collection of their interests plastered on the wall."

Surprisingly, Julia Kramer's presentation entitled, "This Means Nothing to Me Now," involved little mention of food--save for the compliments she received for the sandwiches she prepared. Instead, the conversation centered on her relationship to the act of reading and literature itself at different stages in her life, and her tendency to abandon the passions that momentarily defined her. In this sense, the texts she chose were landmarks for significant shifts in her thinking through time.

"My older sister loved to read," Kramer said. "It defined her. So when I got to high school and we got closer, the only books I liked were the books she liked." We went on to read the Lawrence Ferrlinghetti poem, "I Am Waiting." "This poem exemplifies tonight's title more than anything else."

Kramer explained that until going to college she did not consider herself someone who enjoyed reading. Once a student at Pamona College, however, studying history and creative writing, things changed. She found she enjoyed reading female writers and attributed her former disinterest to the fact that she'd been exposed to mostly male writers to whom she didn't relate. The group read "How to Be An Other Woman," from Lorrie Moore's Self Help to illustrate this one of many stages in Kramer's life as a reader.

Hosts to come include comic artist Jeremy Tinder, founder of Featherproof Press, Zach Dodson, and co-director of InCUBATE, Abby Satinsky.

 
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Book Club is the literary section of Gapers Block, covering Chicago's authors, poets and literary events. More...

Editor: Andrew Huff, ah@gapersblock.com
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