Introductions: Geraldine Brooks
February 3, 2016
On January 28, Geraldine Brooks brought her powerful and moving words to McCaw Hall for SAL’s 2015/16 Literary Arts Series. SAL Executive Director Ruth Dickey introduced her talk and moderated their conversation that evening.
In The Secret Chord, Geraldine Brooks’ most recent novel, the narrator, the prophet Natan, reflects on his life, “I have had a great length of days, and been many things. A reluctant warrior. A servant, a counselor. Sometimes, perhaps, his friend. And this, also I have been: a hollow reed through which the breath of truth sounded its discordant notes. Words. Words upon the wind. What will endure, perhaps, is what I have written. If so, it is enough.”
Indeed, Geraldine Brooks’ many works are a testament to precisely this: that the enduring power of what is written is enough. More than enough. Geraldine Brooks has had an exceptionally rich journey with the written word. Originally from Australia, she began her career as a journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald before winning the Greg Shackleton scholarship to the journalism Master’s Program at Columbia University. She went on to cover international crises in the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans, reporting for the Wall Street Journal. She won numerous awards for her journalism, including the Overseas Press Club Award for her coverage of the Gulf War. She is the author of two books of nonfiction – Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence, and five novels, including March, a retelling of Little Women from the point of view of the absent father, which won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.
What I love about Brooks’ fiction is its power to illuminate worlds and stories that are otherwise lost to us. The New York Times called The Secret Chord, “a thundering, gritty, emotionally devastating reconsideration of the story of King David.” And whether she is illuminating a book’s journey from 15th Century Spain to present day Sarajevo, or the plague, or a seventeenth century Native American who travelled from Martha’s Vineyard to graduate from Harvard, Brooks has an incredible talent for finding irresistible stories in history and richly bringing them to life in ways that illuminate both the past and the present. And particularly, through both her fiction and nonfiction, I love and admire her work in re-introducing and animating women’s voices, which so often have been lost or silenced.
Please join me in warmly welcoming the talented unearther of histories and voices, the illuminator of unimagined pasts, and the gifted conveyor of all that is eternal – love, loss, violence, fear, redemption and a search for meaning – Geraldine Brooks.