Residents of Steamboat Springs read books en masse. We graze across the shelves of our bookstores and libraries with one mind, chewing the same sentences and story lines, which is what makes Literary Sojourn such a perfect event for our community. It's also what makes Ruth Ozeki a perfect choice for this year's lineup.
It's hard to find many avid readers in Steamboat who haven't picked up a copy of Ozeki's "My Year of Meats." For years, knowing the widespread popularity of her book, Sojourn organizers talked about bringing Ozeki to Steamboat. It wasn't until her book "All Over Creation" came out in 2003 that Bud Werner Memorial Library Director Chris Painter called Ozeki's publicist with an invitation.
¤ Doors open at 11 a.m. Saturday ¤ 12:10 to 12:50 p.m. Haven Kimmel ¤ 12:50 to 1:30 p.m. Gish Jen ¤ 2:10 to 2:50 p.m. Chris Abani ¤ 2:50 to 3:30 p.m. Ruth Ozeki ¤ 4 to 4:40 p.m. Patrick McGrath ¤ 4:40 to 5:30 p.m. Book signing ¤ Grand Ballroom in the Sheraton Steamboat Resort Hotel ¤ $85 ¤ 879-0240
Within days, Ozeki and Painter were in e-mail contact with each other.
Ozeki's first book, "My Year of Meats," follows the lives of two women -- a Japanese housewife and a female TV producer who creates a program marketed to Japanese housewives. The book's construction has a film-like rhythm, moving back and forth between the characters just as a documentary moves between segments and interviews.
Before becoming a novelist, Ozeki spent years as a filmmaker and TV producer.
"I was always very aware of the one-sided nature of it," she said. "I was making these television programs and beaming them out to people I never met.
"Part of the fun of writing this book was to imagine the effect those programs had."
The Japanese housewife, Akiko, stands in her kitchen reading a recipe from a cooking program designed to bring Middle-American cooking to Japanese kitchens.
"Two kilograms American beef (rump roast)
"1 can Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup
"1 package Lipton's Powdered Onion Soup
"1.5 liters Coca-Cola (not Pepsi, please)
"'Rumpu Rossuto,' Akiko repeated to herself. 'Notto Pepsi Pleezu.' She watched the television screen, where a sturdy American wife held an economy-size plastic bottle of Coca-Cola upside down over a roasting pan."
When Ozeki started "My Year of Meats," she meant to write a book about the surreal world of making TV and sponsorship. When she chose beef as her "sponsorship product," it organically shifted the focus of the book to the meat industry.
"I stopped eating meat for quite a while," she said. "I do eat meat now, but only when I know where it comes from."
Although "My Year of Meats" is read more widely, Ozeki also will discuss her latest book, "All Over Creation." The book tells the story of a prodigal daughter who runs away from home as a 14 year old, then returns as a grown woman to care for her elderly parents on their farm in Idaho.
"The woman is quite wild and delinquent," Ozeki said. "She's forced to confront the things she ran away from."