Monday, September 10, 2007

American authors in Germany

Our hiking group. Author Steven Schnur circled.We met two very different but interesting authors on our travels in Germany.
The first one was on our hike with us. He was traveling with his college son. Steven Schnur is an award-winning writer of children’s picture books and Jewish chapter books for middle readers. Some his titles include Days of Awe, Sanctuary, Father’s Day, The Koufax Dilemma, The Shadow Children (winner of the Sidney Taylor Award for outstanding juvenile fiction), and The Tie Man’s Miracle: A Chanukah Tale (which aired as a PBS animated special in 2005).

He also wrote alphabet acrostic poems for a series of children books called Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn. For example, for the letter C, the verse reads, "Crystals / Of ice as delicate as / Lace ring the / Duck pond," forming the word COLD in uppercase letters.
Both Steven and his son were avid hikers and had done plenty of adventure traveling. They made the hike very enjoyable.

The other author is a major writer with a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award. At the time we were clueless who he was. We were sitting in the breakfast room of our hotel the morning before our visit to Berlin was to end. A distinguished man comes in and hearing us speaking English, asks if he could join us at our table. We exchanged pleasantries…talking of the weather, what we’ve seen in Berlin and where we traveled from and going to next. We realized that we both had visited a gay establishment on different nights. Our mystery author asked what we thought of the “rent boys” sitting at the bar. “Rent boys? OMG,” I said. “That explains why they were staring at us and smiling. We thought they were amused seeing two middle age Americans there. We had no clue they were anything other than twittering twinks goofing on us.”
Our conversation then turned to talking about our careers. He said he was a writer and he was working on some magazine pieces. Somehow we got on a discussion of Philip Glass. He mentioned that he had worked with him on a project. I was very intrigued. Philip Glass has been a favorite composer of mine since I first listened to him in the late 1970’s (i.e. Einstein on the Beach). I use to own several of his record albums and box sets. Our writer started being coy about his other writings. He did say he had one claim to literary fame but he was not going to brag about it. Then it was time for him to leave for a taxi to the airport. I asked what his full name was….Michael Cunningham. Neither one of us recognized it. I googled it after he left and found out he is the author of “The Hours”, “A Home at the End of the World”, “Flesh and Blood” and “Specimen Days”. (Philip Glass did the sound track to “The Hours” that starred Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, and Meryl Streep.) Afterwards, we both felt silly for not recognizing his name. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our meal with him. He is a good looking, friendly, outgoing, affable man.

I had time to read two books on this trip. First was Will Fellows “Farm Boys.” It is the true coming-of-age stories of 75 gay men from farm backgrounds. They ranged in age from 24 to 84. It was full of very compelling stories. The second book was “Gossip” by Christopher Bram. It was a fun, light read but not as good as his “Father of Frankenstein” (which is the basis of the film “Gods and Monsters”) and “Lives of the Circus Animals.”
E read the very appropriate “The Berlin Stories” by Christopher Isherwood. These stories would inspire the musical “Cabaret.”

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