I discovered Lawrence Weschler in 2006 while interning at McSweeney’s, the indie house that had just published his award-winning essay collection Everything that Rises: A Book of Convergences. In it, he explores images, forms, and compositions found in life that seem also to repeat throughout art history: Rothko’s 1969 black and white colorblocks mirroring newspaper covers from that year’s moon landing; Joel Meyerowitz’s photograph of a 9/11 first responder echoing Valezquez’s rendering of the god of war. Art, imitating life, imitating art.
The interns at McSweeney’s are not paid, or they weren’t then, but they are invited on their last day to help themselves to a few books from the office stock, which is how I came to own that volume (which is, sadly, now out of print). I flipped through it, fascinated, and then put it on my bookshelf for a decade. It wasn’t until grad school that I truly got to know his writing, when a professor assigned his seminal essay “Vermeer in Bosnia.” In it, he draws connections between the Vermeer paintings he observed hanging in the Mauritshuis Museum and the Yugoslav war-crimes tribunal he was covering nearby in The Hague. He concludes, startlingly and convincingly, that these apparently incomparable things are in fact remarkably similar: they are both about finding interior peace in the face of ravaging violence.
This is, I now know, Weschler’s specialty: pairing seemingly unrelated things to revelatory effect. I was stunned by the power of his insights as well as the openness of his prose. In refreshing contrast to the tight-fisted academic exegeses I was used to, Weschler’s essays are rangy conversations, brilliant and accessible, illuminating and human-scaled. I had found my new favorite essayist.
Of course, I’m not alone there. Lawrence Weschler is a legend. He was a staff writer at the New Yorker for more than twenty years, twice winning the George Polk Award for reporting, and the author of more books than I can name. His work has won the National Book Critics Circle Award and been shortlisted for the Pulitzer, and in forty-plus years of trying to make sense of the comedies and tragedies of this world through his writing, he has yet to slow down. His new biweekly substack, Wondercabinet, is fantastic, and he continues to write books, articles, and exhibition catalogues at a dizzying pace. (His article on the record-breaking Vermeer exhibition at the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam is due out this week or next in the Atlantic.)
So imagine my surprise to find an email from him in my inbox a few months ago. He had, apparently, stumbled across an essay about his work I had written some years ago for the Los Angeles Review of Books and reached out to introduce himself. It was like getting a letter from Santa Clause, or the President. Elated, I asked him if he would consider coming to Easton as a Shore Lit visiting writer, and—I can still hardly believe this—he said yes.
A huge thank you to the Academy Art Museum and George Mason University for making this program possible. Seeing Lawrence Weschler speak about his work in person is a bucket-list moment for me, and I am beyond thrilled that it is happening here, on the Shore. He’ll be lecturing at 6:00, Friday, March 3 at AAM; I hope you are all able to join us for what’s sure to be an incredible evening.
Night of the Living Rez, Morgan Talty. Set on a Penobscot reservation in Maine, this story collection has been racking up award noms. Talty combines gritty materiality with humor, offering an irreverent Indigenous narrative that rejects sentimentality—even as it examines the complexities of addiction, poverty, and intergenerational trauma.
This Time Tomorrow,Emma Straub. Reliably, Straub hits that sweet spot between clever and warm-hearted. In this novel, 40-year-old Alice time travels back in time to her 16-year-old life and is given the chance to change the trajectory of her father’s future.
Still Pictures, Janet Malcolm. The legendary journalist looks back at her own life through a series of snapshots, which function more as metaphor than documentary. Though spare, Malcolm’s memoir is relentlessly elegant. To wit: “The events of our lives are like photographic negatives. The few that make it into the developing solution and become photographs are what we call our memoirs.”
What Else I’m Looking Forward to on the Shore this Month:
Film: Women Talking @ Regal Cinema, Salisbury March 4-9, various showtimes
Sarah Polley stacked her film adaptation of Miriam Toews’s novel with serious heavy hitters: Rooney Mara, Frances McDormand, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley. Skipping the Shore entirely in its original release, it’s playing on just a few dates this month in the run-up to the Oscars.Reading & Workshop: Meredith Davies Hadaway, Sophie-Kerr Poet-in-Residence, Rose O’Neill Literary House, Washington College, Chestertown 5:30 Tuesday, March 7
FreeMeredith Davies Hadaway has published three collections of poetry, including At the Narrows, winner of the Delmarva Book Prize, as well as essays and reviews for anthologies and journals. She’ll read from her work, and then lead a generative writing workshop.
Music: Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra March Concert, Easton Church of God, Easton
7:30 Thursday, March 9
Elizabeth Song, winner of the Elizabeth Loker Concerto Competition, will be the featured soloist for performances of Johannes Brahms’s Tragic Overture and Florence Price’s Symphony No. 1 in E Minor.
Exhibition Opening: “State of the Art” and “Bill Wolf Sculpture,” Dorchester Center for the Arts, Cambridge 5:00-7:00 Saturday, March 11
Dorchester Center for the Arts presents the exhibit State of the Art in partnership with the University of Maryland Global
Campus and the American Poetry Museum. Bill Wolf: Sculpture will be on display in the upstairs performance hall. The Sagacious Traveler will be performing at the opening reception, part of Cambridge’s Second Saturday arts celebration.
Theater: Fun Home @ Black Box Theater, Salisbury
Thursday, March 9-Sunday, March 12
$20 general public (discounts for students, seniors, faculty)
Adapted from Alison Bechdel’s extraordinary graphic memoir of the same name, this Tony Award-winning musical charts young Bechdel’s relationship with her closeted homosexual father, who runs a funeral parlor out of the family’s home.
Easton-based Kerry Folan is an Assistant Professor at George Mason University. She is also the founder and director ofShore Lit, an organization that aims to bring literary events to the rural Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in the Baltimore Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Washington Post, and other noted publications.
Letters to Editor
Elizabeth Jane Biliske says
I appreciated this article. I hope the Spy will include more articles about artistic events occurring at Salisbury U.