Two “mind-opening books,” and their authors’ approach to writing them, were explored last Tuesday evening at a Jewish Week Literary Forum held at Congregation Rodeph Sholom on the Upper West Side.
A standing-room-only crowd of about 250 people was on hand to hear Diane Ackerman, above left, talk about her very personal new memoir, “One Hundred Names For Love,” describing her painstaking efforts to help her husband, the accomplished literary critic Paul West, regain the use of language after a serious stroke, and Joshua Foer, above right, the author of the memoir “Moonwalking With Einstein,” tell how he trained for and won the 2006 U.S. Memory Championship.
Jewish Week Book Critic Sandee Brawarsky, who moderated the program, engaged the two authors and had them describe how they came to write their very different books dealing with memory, and the fascinating capacity to make our brains more flexible in the ability to learn and recall.
Ackerman, the author of numerous books, most notably “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” said that just before her husband’s stroke she had written a book about how the brain functions, and that helped in her work with him long after doctors had given up hope. She noted proudly that he was home writing a book now.
Foer said that in covering the 2005 U.S. Memory Championship as a science reporter, he was fascinated with the levels of concentration the contestants achieved. After interviewing some of them, he decided to train for a year so that he could write a first-person piece about being a participant himself.
As it turns out, he won — among his feats, he committed to memory a random deck of cards, in sequence, in one minute and 40 seconds — and ended up writing a book about his experience, and technique.
The second program in the Jewish Week Literary Forum series will be held Tuesday, Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. at Rodeph Sholom, featuring Andre Aciman and Lucette Lagnado, two Egyptian-born writers, now living here, who will discuss their experiences with exile, assimilation and Jewish identity. For reservations for the free event: firstname.lastname@example.org