What happens when an unsuspecting Meetup group of cultural aficionados stumbles into the Institute Library on a cold and dreary night, hoping that someone will read a story to them?
They might discover, in the space of an hour, that even in small southern towns, someone is bound to have a few fingers of illegal whiskey lying around. Or that the soul molecule, a creative name for DMT, is not so different from a radioactive brain-chip planted by alien life forms. Or that, contrary to one Independent writer’s speculations, Bennett Lovett-Graff makes fantastic cookies, and serves them up with tea for grown-up story time.
Mostly, though, that friendship in fiction is as fraught, strange, and stunning as it is in real life.
With that spirit––and a little holiday cheer––at its core, Wednesday night’s Listen Here! at the Institute Library captivated audience members new and old with back-to-back readings of Steve Almond’s “The Soul Molecule,” and Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory,” given by New Haven Theater Company Actors actors Erich Greene and Margaret Mann.
Throughout the summer and fall, the Institute Library has rolled out a series of new events intended to broaden its constituent base while maintaining an already faithful one. Among established Amateur Hours, in-house concerts, and new exhibitions, Listen Here! is a success story in the making, or rather, remaking: resurrected from Lovett-Graff’s previous sessions of the same name, the series brings together the New Haven Review, New Haven Theater Company, and Institute Library under a rotating theme. Wednesday’s, “Love Is All Around,” provided the perfect backdrop for people just discovering the library as a resource.
Largely because love was all around. While it abounded in the stories––Almond’s is an exquisite, succinct exploration of belief, mutual trust, and ultimately love, while Capote’s leaves the gloom and doom of In Cold Blood to share a child’s recollection that is at once innocent and heart-wrenching, and masterfully written––it came out most powerfully in audience and reader response.
Mann stressed the importance that Capote’s story had had on her own life. Her mother, an English teacher, had introduced her to it, and she grew up hearing it year after year. By now, she almost knows it by heart: the warm but childish friend who announces fruitcake season on the same day every fall, the buggies they push to and fro, the closeness they feel to God––and each other––when they fly their homemade kites after Christmas.
“There were a couple not-so-dry runs,” she laughed during the audience talkback. “It just struck me so much,” an audience member said. “I could see the story, the raisins in the fruitcake, I could count their pennies. I’m going to be crying good tears all the way home.”
Stay tuned! The Institute Library is planning more Listen Here! sessions for 2015. Visit their events page for the latest updates.