I'm a great fan of Jane Smiley. I came across her in the late 90s when I read Moo and was impressed by her ability to write about issues confronting contemporary humanity - in this case how agribusiness was impacting on academia - with a quick wit and a writer's eye that can spot hypocrisy at a hundred paces.
I followed up with Good Faith in which good natured real estate agent, Joe Stratford, gets seduced by the rich pickings of the US property boom and becomes a wheeler dealer par excellence. I was hooked.
Jane Smiley spoke at the Great Hall at the Arts Centre when she visited Christchurch to promote her 1998 historical novel The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton and I was there in the front row. Smiley shows her range in this novel by writing about American history as competently as she does contemporary issues. And, I mustn't forget to mention, Smiley was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for A Thousand Acres.
Jane Smiley is an author to watch. She doesn't flinch from the big themes and her penmanship would make many fellow authors want to throw down their laptops in a fit of chagrin and take up a nice, easy career in brain surgery.
When I was offered the opportunity to see her WORD Christchurch talk at the newly reopened Christchurch Art Gallery on Monday 9 May, I jumped at the chance. I'll make sure I get there early and I get a spot in the front row again. I'm a Jane Smiley groupie and I'm not ashamed to shout it to the world!
- Find books by Jane Smiley at the library
- Listen to Kathryn Ryan interview Jane Smiley on Radio New Zealand