Moderator Richard Rayner had each author read selections from their work and then opened the discussion posing the question: "Is it the job of fiction to explore its own form?" Egan pointed out that, throughout the history of the novel, writers such as Miguel de Cervantes and Laurence Sterne have played with form. Yet more than one author on the panel stressed that they did not set out to write something "formally interesting."
Asked whether he thinks the times we live in influence form, Reiken said that though he's obviously a product of our "fragmented but paradoxically connectible" culture, his use of form is not conscious but rather intuitive. His book was partly inspired by the story of 500 Jewish intellectuals killed during the Holocaust after being convinced they were to be hired as archivists. He imagined a scenario in which one or two of the men survived. The origin of Hale's "epic bildungsroman" came as he sat in Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo surrounded by snow, reading and watching the monkeys. Grushin's book, compared by one reviewer to "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by Roald Dahl because of its magic ticket similarity, tried to answer the question, "What would make you stand in line for a year?"
The question of form, however, cannot be answered simply with a magic ticket. Egan probably summed it up best: Form should allow you to "do what needs to be done in the freest way possible."
— Chris Daley
A priest called 'G'
A roar of applause and cheers echoed through Bovard Auditorium as Times columnist Steve Lopez and Father Gregory Boyle took the stage Sunday. The 1,235-seat venue was nearly full, the audience eagerly waiting the compelling, compassionate and often hilarious stories of Boyle and his experiences assisting gang members.
"For some reason, it just doesn't feel right calling you G-Dog," Lopez joked as he introduced Boyle, who also goes by "G" or "G-Dog" among young members of his community.
A Jesuit priest, Boyle has spent the past 20 years running Homeboy Industries, an operation created to provide at-risk former gang members with counseling, education, tattoo removal and job training and placement in the hopes that they will become contributing members of the community. The idea is to offer a sense of hope and faith to these otherwise hopeless individuals. "If you give hope, the kid will stop planning his funeral and will start planning his future," Boyle explained.
After visiting the site of Homeboy Industries a few days earlier, Lopez shared that he was simply blown away by the multitude and magnitude of tasks Boyle was expected to tackle within an hour, let alone within a day. "I was amazed by how many things this man could do at once. He has done this for decades and does it with such love and energy. He's like a rock star there," said Lopez.
Boyle, author of the bestselling memoir "Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion," attributes this energy to the fact that he is anchored by the delights and genuine joys of his duties. "Everyday it's a privilege. Hilarity and heartache and intractable heartache after intractable heartache — I find the whole thing energizing," Boyle said.
— Jasmine Elist