I'm the Books Editor at The Inquirer, and I am proud to announce that next week we will start a Books blog. I am very excited to introduce our blogger: Lynn Rosen, writer, marketer, and also director of Open Book Bookstore in Elkins Park.
Welcome aboard, Lynn! She'll blog about books, writers, and readers in the Philadelphia region. Anything books, anything reading, anything shaking, Lynn's got it.
Here's Lynn's profile of Jennifer Haigh, an author with Pennsy ties who will be appearing at the Free Library on Tuesday, May 24, at 7:30 p.m.:
"Heat & Light is the third of Jennifer Haigh's six books to be set in Bakerton, a fictional coal town in western Pennsylvania modeled on the author's own hometown northeast of Pittsburgh.
Haigh has so vividly and repeatedly brought this part of the country to life that Bakerton has been compared by critics to William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County.
"It's a sad place, Haigh explains: 'It's a place that breaks my heart. It's been a very painful 35 years there. The mines started shutting down when I was in high school. My whole generation has fled. It's a very hard place to make a living.'
"Baker Towers, published in 2005, was Haigh's first Bakerton book. It takes place during the coal boom of the 1940s and 50s. Says Haigh: 'I thought, "This is the story I always wanted to tell." It's about the good old days of my town I grew up hearing about (I didn't live through them). It's my chance to time travel.' After writing the book, Haigh thought: ' "OK, I've done it." Every time I write about that place I think, "This is the last time. I've said all there is to say about this little town." '
"But she found she wasn't finished, and in her 2013 short story collection News from Heaven, she told about what happened to the region after coal left. That she had yet another story to tell in this third book came as a surprise to her. Hydro-fracking brought new possibilities and challenges to the area, as she explains: 'It's a third act for this region that nobody thought was going to have one.'
"Haigh describes writing a novel as an act of empathy, and says her interest is in locating what she calls 'game-changing moments.' She says that for her, a novel 'is always about the moment after which nothing will ever be the same.' Asked whether the book has a political aspect, Haigh responds: 'It's impossible to write about this issue without being political. However, people who feel very strongly about this issue either for or against will very likely be disappointed. It's neither an environmental screed nor a message in favor of fracking. If I had a point to make, it would be a terrible novel. That is no way to write good fiction.'
"Reviewers are comparing Heat & Light to the work of Richard Ford, Richard Russo, and Don DeLillo. Find out for yourself on Tuesday, May 24, when Haigh appears at the Free Library of Philadelphia at 7:30 p.m. along with Adam Briggle, author of A Field Philosopher's Guide to Fracking: How One Texas Town Stood Up to Big Oil and Gas."