Author Russell Banks opens Babel series tonight
Tonight marks the start of the 6th annual Babel series, where the Just Buffalo Literary Center brings some of the globe's most accomplished writers to speak at Kleinhans Music Hall.
The series can boast past appearances from several notable writers, including three winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Starting the series Thursday at 8 p.m. will be Russell Banks. Banks' novel "The Sweet Hereafter" was selected by Just Buffalo for its program, "If All of Buffalo Read the Same Book."
The book revolves around a bus disaster that claims the lives of many children.
"It seemed particularly resonant for Western New Yorkers to read a book about how a community confronts disaster and loss on that scale," said Barbara Cole, Just Buffalo's Artistic Director.
"One of the greatest features of the Babel series is that it allows the community to come together and focus on books that are sometimes very challenging and because we're grappling with some challenging themes in our life, whether we're thinking about war or we're thinking about death, and loss and grief."
"This one of the great gifts that literature gives us. It gives us a language to talk about and think about what is sometimes unspeakable or unthinkable."
That in-depth approach has not scared away audiences. Cole says Babel's initial lecture five years ago drew 900 people. The 1,500 tickets made available to see Salman Rushdie at Kleinhans were all sold.
Cole says the large audiences reveal the passion of local readers.
"It's really a city wide commitment to reading good books and talking about good books," Cole said.
"We're second only to Portland Arts and Lectures in terms of our participation levels. So, Buffalo is really on the map as one of the most dynamic cities in the country that is committed to literature."
Cole says the visiting authors have taken note.
"They are so impressed by the audience at Babel, by how serious and thought-provoking questions are during the question-and-answer (segment of the lecture)".