Arts and Entertainment

Barbara Kingsolver comes to Bainbridge for West Sound Reads, Nov. 20

Author/activist Barbara Kingsolver. - Courtesy/Annie Griffiths Belt
Author/activist Barbara Kingsolver.
— image credit: Courtesy/Annie Griffiths Belt

The bestselling author/activist will read from her new book "The Lacuna" at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 20 at Bainbridge High School.

The general consensus among the press and her publishers is that “The Lacuna” — Barbara Kingsolver’s first novel in nine years — is the New York Times’ bestselling author’s most accomplished work to date.

She’s “at the peak of her powers as a writer,” Harper Collins said, “expanding the scope and ambition of her art.”

When asked if she considers this latest book ­her most accomplished, and if so why, Kingsolver responded with an impervious kindness, “I couldn’t possibly say that, because my mother taught me not to brag.”

The Kentucky-raised, Arizona-based author said she let’s the marketing people make up those slogans.

But she does agree “The Lacuna” — which she’ll read from at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20 at a free West Sound Reads event at the Bainbridge High School gymnasium — was, indeed, a massive undertaking.

The ambitious 500-page work spans two decades, entwining two different worlds in America and Mexico, tethered to the historical record through excerpts from the New York Times and journal entries from the story’s protagonist, Harrison William Shepherd, at the crux of World War II.

The whole idea grew out of Kingsolver’s interest in how the American psyche came to take its modern shape.

“I’ve been thinking for a long time about the interesting relationship between art and politics,” the author said, noting the perceived skepticism of art and ideas which challenge the status quo. “I had a hunch that art and politics were forced to get a divorce sometime in the middle of the last century.”

And as it turns out, her hunch was dead on — and then some.

But when asked what it was that brought about the divorce between art and politics, she replied, again imperviously, “That’s the novel.”

“It’s much larger than a sound bite and I’m not just being coy,” she added. “You need to go there and feel what it was like, and feel what a complicated time it was that created this.”

While speaking of the time period featured in the novel, Kingsolver also created the book itself during an incredibly complicated time in history — she penned the entire text during the latest Bush administration. And she noted a few frightening similarities.

“I saw how the media really whipped up a frenzy for fear and intolerance of any kind of questioning the status quo,” she said, “and I thought, ‘Whoa, these times are still with us.’”

Among the book’s threads of history and politics and swimming in the ocean, the role of the media in organizing fear and distraction campaigns plays a large role throughout.

It’s something Kingsolver classifies as a sickness.

Within the short process of talking to the media for the new book, she’d encountered multiple occasions of being either misquoted or misrepresented — which led me to ask about the validity of a Wikipedia entry noting her as member of a mysteriously super-literate rock and roll band, featuring the likes of Amy Tan, Matt Groening, Dave Berry and Stephen King.

“No, that’s true,” she laughed. “That was a long time ago, but that is true.”

Barbara Kingsolver will be reading from “The Lacuna” at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Bainbridge High School Gymnasium, 9330 High School Road on Bainbridge. Free and open to the public, sponsored by West Sound Reads. Info: www.eagleharborbooks.com.

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