Thursday, September 30, 2010
Town Hall Seattle
Elliot Bay Books (Sponsor)
Short version: An entertaining reading by a poignant sometimes-controversial author. She was funny, direct and to my surprise a superior orator reader.
I stand in line to buy tickets to see Terry McMillan at Seattle's legendary Town Hall. Her latest novel "Getting to Happy” is a sequel from the now legendary "Waiting to Exhale." Fifteen years later, the author revisits the fearless Phoenix foursome of Savannah, Robin, Gloria and Bernadine, as they ride again: post hysterectomy and pre-menopause.
This is a brave thing by Ms. McMillan, as she makes the brave attempt at a sequel to her most famous work. It's exciting, standing in line, I am the only male. I am the only person under forty-five and I am the only non African American. This is the land of the angry woman. They look at me as if I climbed off on the wrong bus. Terry McMillan is their author and their voice. She galvanized a whole generation of women that shared in the commonality of an experience I will never understand. Terri McMillan lived it and wrote about it and no I don't understand. I do know Ms. McMillan is an important author and one of the great narrative voices of the last twenty years.
I grind my teeth because of course the 7:30 reading didn't start until 7:56pm. Sponsored by the Central District Forum for the Arts (CDFA) and Elliot Bay Books. Ms. McMillan gets not one but three introductions, which is two more than any author (or the Pope) deserves. Even Ms. McMillan appeared overwhelmed by the pomp and circumstance. She had been on Oprah recently, so maybe the CDFA wanted to try and top the mighty O.
McMillan looks radiant on stage and I had to double check to make sure her true age. The reading is long. She reads the first chapter prefacing it by saying "I’m sick to death of Savannah. I'll be honest." I thought the thing would suck with such a negative beginning but then McMillan took off during her reading. Changing speeds as she went along. Talking fast when describing men and slowing her words down to near crawl when it came to Savannah’s own reflection about her life.It was as if I were watching a great actor. Half way through the reading McMillan the author disappeared and Savannah emerged. Maybe they are the same person but I believe a writer of McMillan’s skill has the ability to channel the characters she’s created. So few authors have these moments of clarity where the writer and entertainer mix.
Even as an audience member refused to leave the reading as her three-year-old son acted out during McMillan’s performance, (RUDE) the author carried through never allowing the child's antics to break her concentration. It was impressive.
What is not impressive is the bitterness of her life and divorce that come through during the question and answer period. Ms. McMillan can say she is not the bitter person she once was and she can show up on Oprah with her ex husband and say all is forgiven, but the body language and the tone come through like an martini made from alum."I think men are the cause of most of women's problems. Not all of them but most of them." I looked around the room at the nodding heads of her fans and left.