Just Buffalo Literary Center's Babel series is a gift to the Buffalo community that I wish more residents were talking about. I've seen several authors now, but last night's talk by Dave Eggers was unlike almost any author talk I've seen, and for those of you familiar with Eggers innovative works, that should come as no surprise. And if you haven't discovered his work yet, you're in for a treat. Eggers' memoir "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" actual delivers on the tongue and cheek promise embodied in the title, as Eggers chronicles the death of both of his parents inhis college years, leaving him to care for his younger brother.
The irony of last night is that aside from a reading of his forth coming children's book, so little of the talk was devoted to his own writings and literature. Yet as an only an accomplished memoir writer could do, Eggers leads the audience through a meandering story of a few seemingly disconnected vignettes of his life. His day in Buffalo, visiting Lafayette High School. His work on McSweeney's and developing the Pirate Supply Store (eye patches, peg legs and everything needed for the working pirate). But of course, the store front hides an active tutoring center in the back. His time in Kenya in a refugee camp, working on his book "What is the What."
And yet, throughout all these disparate vignettes, the central theme emerges. Care for the other. Refugees. Children. It's his generosity of spirit and genuinely felt caring ethic that make his life stories so compelling. Reading letters from former tutoring students, to writings from students he visited with that morning, as well as the Lafayette High School teacher's letter that invited him to attend her class composed of Buffalo's diverse refugee community. And throughout the talk Eggers subtly prods the audience to reconnect with progressive values, commenting on the beauty of Lafayette H. S. asreminder when we "built temples to education" and the focus and drive of his refugee students.
Eggers inspires. If you haven't read any of his works comes by the shop, we've almost always several of his titles on the shelves.
And subscribe to the next season of Babel. The 2017-2018 season schedule was announcedlast night:Toni Morrison, Junot Diaz, Terry Tempest Williams and Viet Than Nguyen likely won't deliver their collective wisdom with the same meandering style of Eggers, but I have no doubt that such literary giants will every bit as inspiring.