For an author, talking to a book reader is like running into a friend from years ago who remembers the old you and doesn't know how much you've changed.
Brady Udall, author of two books and a presenter at this weekend's Literary Sojourn, didn't have much to say when asked about a book published in 1997, saying only, "it seems like it belongs to someone else."
Literary Sojourn, an annual gathering of authors and book lovers, takes place from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort. This year's featured authors are Christina Garc-a, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Audrey Niffenegger, David Quammen and Brady Udall, with Dr. Regina Barreca returning as master of ceremonies. The day includes presentations by each writer, brunch and book signing reception and costs $85. Tickets are available at Bud Werner Memorial Library, Off the Beaten Path Bookstore and online at www.literarysojou...
. A small number of tickets will be available at the door.
But part of being an author is wading knee high into an algae gathering pond of his or her own published work, smiling and telling the story of things past.
David Quammen is a prolific writer whose words have been flowing like a river since he was in his early 20s. He is the author of four fiction novels, five nonfiction books, countless articles and 15 years worth of columns for Outside magazine.
At the time of his conversation with 4-Points, Quammen didn't know what he would be speaking about at this weekend's Literary Sojourn, but knew it would be hard to dig up enthusiasm for the books of the past.
"The logical thing would be to talk about 'Monster of God,' but I've already done a tour with that book last year," he said. "Now I'm working on a book about Charles Darwin." The book, which consumes most of his time and mind, was assigned to Quammen by an editor and is due to be published at the end of next year.
"The difficulty with writing a book about Darwin is that thousands of books have been written about Darwin, and they are very, very good," Quammen said. "My editor told me not to worry. Those books are my resources, not my competition."
Quammen has fashioned himself into a scientific journalist who takes the complicated natural world and explains it in a factual, yet readable way in a style he calls "part edification, part vaudeville."
"I'm writing a biographical (book) about Darwin for people who might otherwise not read a book about Darwin. And that's a lot of people," he said. "Darwin is this wonderful character who is so badly known, and I'm tempted to talk about him (at Literary Sojourn)."
Quammen may be most widely known for his naturalist writing published in Outside magazine. He wrote a column called "Natural Acts," published from 1981 to the mid-'90s. Many of the essays were re-published in a collection called "The Boilerplate Rhino: Nature in the eye of the beholder," "Natural Acts," "The Flight of the Iguana" and "Wild Thoughts from Wild Places." The essays explored nature and humans' interaction with nature, such as "Superdove on 46th Street."
"Superdove" was the last column Quammen wrote for Outside.
"It discussed the ecology and evolution of city pigeons and what their success means to the evolution of the human race," he said.
Most of Quammen's work begins in the library.
"(While I wrote that column) every month, once a month I freaked out, searched through my piles of paper, my clips and lists of possible ideas. I rummaged desperately for a fact or an idea, for a kernel of a column," he said. "Then I would charge into the university library, chasing around unsystematically for offbeat and interesting details until I found something that fit the bill."
In all his work, Quammen takes the information that he finds in scientific journals and brings a human voice to it.
"I try very hard to write with an amiable, likable voice," he said. "I use words that sound written rather than spoken.
"I picture one person and write to that reader like I'm having a conversation."
The organizers of Literary Sojourn have been trying to get Quammen to speak at the event for years.
Quammen finally was able to accept the invitation.
"The timing was right," he said. "I'm writing a book, but I'm not on the home stretch." He also was convinced by his friend and fellow writer, Tim Cahill, who spoke at the Sojourn last year.
"He spoke well of this event," Quammen said. "He told me they would treat me well and I would have a good time."