Never Mind the Global Perspective: Locals Flock to the South End Branch Library to Listen to Authors Who Write About Their Town

When the day begins with the New York Times, the Boston Globe and the South End News, invariably I go for the neighborhood paper first. I am not alone in my skewed judgment: local wins. At the South End Library's most recent readings, local won again when, small and large, but always enthusiastic audiences listened intently to two authors talking about their very different books, both playing in Boston. April 23 saw Joe Gallo present a slideshow about his outstanding illustrated guide to local public sculptures and reliefs, Boston Bronze and Stone Speak to Us;  a week later, South End author Barbara Shapiro talked to a standing-room only audience about her 2012 suspense thriller The Art Forger, set in Boston and based on the theft of half a billion dollars worth of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.

Joe Gallo researched, wrote and published his book after walking through the city made him curious about its public art.  He'd had a successful career as an educator and entrepreneur and wanted "to give back to the public." The self-published  Boston Bronze and Stone Speak to Us is an excellent guide to the city's sculptures and statues, with beautiful photographs, informative maps showing numbered stars linking sculptures to page numbers for easy exploration. The impassioned author likes to point out that the three women depicted in the Boston Women's Memorial on Commonwealth Avenue --Lucy Stone, Abigail Adams and Phyllis Wheatley--  lean on and stand against their pedestals but none stand ON them...Gallo hopes to publish another edition of his book, in which he hopes to include at least some of the many works of public art he could not put in the current version.

Barbara Shapiro's sixth novel, The Art Forger, was picked up by a publisher other than herself, "after 26 years in the trenches," as she put it. Standing in front of a spellbound  audience, she debunked Virginia Woolf's belief that women need "a room of their own" to write in: "All I needed was a working husband with benefits," she said. She is now returning the favor to him, she added. While she was at it, she sent another notion sailing, too, namely  "to only write what you know." "After my 11th novel I ran out of things I knew. I wanted to write what I could learn about, " she told the amused audience. Thus, she immersed herself in the life of "Belle," as she came to call Isabelle Stewart Gardner, and the mind-numbing theft of 13 works of her collected art, none of which found, none of which insured (could there be a connection?). Moving to the South End eight years ago where she  became involved with the local art community, plus an accidental Google link to the words "art forgery," finally allowed Shapiro to combine the four story strands that had been playing in her head.  She wrote an enthralling tale of wealthy Bostonians, struggling artists, the art forgery world and art theft, all set in our town. Her next novel is in an editor's hands so..stay tuned. Shapiro's five favorite books are listed under the South End Reads tab on this web site.

NEXT SOUTH END WRITES READINGS:

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Tuesday, May 14, 6:30 p.m.

Dennis Lehane

The spectacularly successful author who grew up in Dorchester and is ALSO one of the nine BPL trustees, last week won the 2013 Edgar Award for his latest novel, Live by Night. Set in Boston in the 1920s, the New York Times’ reviewer called the book a “sentence-by-sentence pleasure.” The Edgars are named for the poet Edgar Allen Poe, and given to the best writers of mystery fiction, non-fiction and television. Previous novels include, among others, Gone Baby GoneShutter Island  and Mystic River --all made into fabulous movies-- and  The Given Day.

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Tuesday, May 21, 6:30 p.m.

Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman has published a total of twenty-one novels, three books of short fiction, and eight books for children and young adults. Her novel, Here on Earth, an Oprah Book Club choice, was a modern reworking of some of the themes of Emily Bronte’s masterpiece Wuthering Heights. Hoffman’s work has been published in more than twenty translations and some one hundred foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by The New York TimesEntertainment WeeklyThe Los Angeles TimesLibrary Journal, and People Magazine. The distinguished author wrote the original screenplay “Independence Day,” a film starring Kathleen Quinlan and Diane Wiest. Her teen novel. Aquamarine, was made into a film starring Emma Roberts. Her short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New York TimesThe Boston Globe MagazineKenyon ReviewThe Los Angeles Times, Architectural DigestHarvard ReviewPloughshares and other magazines. Her latest,  The Dovekeepersa historical novel describing the AD70 massacre at Masada from the point of view of four women at the fortress before it fell during the Jewish-Roman war, is the most recent of the nearly two dozen novels by Hoffman and just came out in paperback. She will be introduced at this talk by another distinguished writer, Sue Miller.

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Tuesday, June 11, 6:30 p.m.

Alice Stone,

the local filmmaker whose mesmerizing documentary, Angelo Unwritten, has followed the life of a teenager adopted out of foster care when he was twelve, will return with an update of new material gathered since December 2011.

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Tuesday, June 18, 6:30 p.m.

Philip Gambone  

will return to read from his current work-in-progress, retracing the steps of his father who, as a soldier, was sent to Europe during the Second World War.

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