A passionate attachment to a great work of literature can shape our lives and help us to read our own histories. For Rebecca Mead, that book was George Eliot’s Middlemarch, which she first read as a young woman in an English coastal town, and reread regularly throughout her life. In My Life In Middlemarch, the New Yorker writer revisits her own past and Eliot’s work in a new way, by leading us into the life that the book made for her, as well as the many lives the novel has led since it was written. Employing a structure that mirrors that of the novel, My Life in Middlemarch blends biography, reporting, and memoir, taking the themes of Eliot’s masterpiece—the complexity of love, the meaning of marriage, the foundations of morality, and the drama of aspiration and failure—and bringing them into our world. Mead comes to LIVE from the NYPL to explore the enduring power of Middlemarch, and how the books we read help us read our own lives.
"Rebecca Mead has written a singular and inventive tale about her favorite book, and how it has changed — and changed her — over many years of reading and re-reading. Anyone who has ever loved the characters in a novel as dearly as we love our own families will recognize the passion, the devotion, the intimacy and the joy of returning again and again to a revered classic. Both a memoir and a biography, both an homage and a homecoming, My Life in Middlemarch is a perfectly composed offering of literary love and self-observation. I adored it, and it will forever live on my bookshelf next to my own precious paperbacks of George Eliot.” -Elizabeth Gilbert
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"If all fairy tales begin ‘Once upon a time,’ then all graduation speeches begin ‘When I was sitting where you are now.’ We may not always say it, at least not in those exact words, but it’s what graduation speakers are thinking. We look out at the sea of you and think, Isn’t there some mistake? I should still be sitting there. I was that young fifteen minutes ago, I was that beautiful and lost."
The school year is just beginning, but Ann’s commencement words are a wonderful articulation about the passing of time.
Join LIVE from the NYPL in hosting her and Elizabeth Gilbert on December 10.