From the Booking Desk:
Last night was the official launch for Laura Lippman’s Wilde Lake. The event was held at The Ivy Bookshop – a local Baltimore institution where Laura has hosted several launches over the years.
Having been to many a book launch, I can attest to the fact that they can be hit or miss events. Laura, ever the pro, has never let me down yet; but this launch for Wilde Lake felt like something extra special. Part of this is not doubt because as a long-time Columbia resident, Wilde Lake resonated with me in a very personal way, but it was also clear from the discussion that the topics and themes of the novel really mean something to Laura herself and that she has been changed because of them.
As I recount some brief highlights of the evening, it’s going to sound like a more somber affair, but trust me when I say that it was anything but. It really felt like a gathering of folks who want so badly for a better society and Laura was the evening’s shaman. Really, nothing that was discussed would be considered radical or revolutionary, but the earnestness with which Laura spoke of these difficult topics captured us all in its magic spell.
- Laura decided to Uber to the event and ended up having to direct her driver through the city to avoid traffic. I can’t think of many folks I would rather guide me through the streets of Baltimore City.
- I personally was proud that she referenced my interview (and review) with (and of) her by beginning her presentation by saying I had reminded her that last year this time, she told me she was working on a “crazy ambitious standalone.” She then went on to briefly mentioned Wilde Lake‘s link to To Kill a Mockingbird.
- From there, things turned to rape culture (a term that Laura hates). Laura spoke of how in conversations in recent years she had noticed that enlightened men in her life were still apt to questions allegations and if not defend the perpetrator, than to at least ask for the “innocent until proven guilty” statute to be applied. This, along with some self-reflection, has led Laura’s to adopt a new mantra: Regardless of the situation, she is always going to believe the victim when claims of sexual assault are made. Of course, she wants the courts to do their job and determine the truth, but since a very small percentage of rape claims end up being false, Laura feels there is no reason not to believe the victim from the start and work from there. Laura also spoke of being careful not to make rape a gendered crime – after all, men are raped as well. (I was very happy to hear Laura talk about this, as I feel in many ways that male rape is too often overlooked when examining rape statistics. My personal feeling is that it probably happens more than is even reported, because if we think of how difficult it is for a woman to come forward with such claims, just imagine the stigma faced by a man who makes the same claim).
- Laura also spoke of dropping the term date rape from our discussions. Statistically, most rapes are committed by acquaintances, and somehow by giving it this separate term, society is (perhaps unintentionally) implying that it is somehow a lesser form of the crime. Rape is rape, so let’s just use that term.
- One of the over-arching themes of Wilde Lake involves the changing of societal norms over time. Laura stressed how important it is that we don’t impose our current “enlightened” views on the past. She said that sometimes the best intentioned people have a hard time keeping up with change. We must do our best, but also not judge too harshly – retroactively.
- I asked about the research into Columbia, Maryland and Laura told of an interesting, though hard to verify, situation. When Columbia was conceived, it was intended to be a community where diversity ruled and everyone lived in harmony. But suddenly it seemed as though the African-American population of the area was congregating in certain pockets within the community. Since this was the antithesis of the concept, research was done and it turned out that these African-American home-buyers were not being segregated to certain areas, but that instead, they were adamant about buying brick-based homes (as opposed to wood homes, which are common in Columbia), so these pockets rose out of what the people desired, not by anything imposed upon them.
- As a former newspaper reporter, Laura was questioned about the state of The Baltimore Sun. Wisely, she alluded to the fact that The Sun is not unique in its current struggles, but that the newspaper industry is caught in a vicious cycle. Less advertising, means less money for employees. Less employees means less quality content. Less quality content means less advertising. And so on and so forth.
- Back to Columbia and the utopian ideals at its core. Laura was asked if she believed such utopias could exist. Without being cynical, she said that scarcity is the flaw within the utopian concept. In order for it ever to work, everyone would need to be rich (not just financially, but in resources, etc.) Since that is not going to happen, utopias are likely to always fail.
- The event ended with a craft question. How does she get writing completed in a household with another writer and a young child. Laura talked about it from the standpoint of commitment – small daily commitments which can grow in larger routines. Don’t think of it as disciple, she says, as that comes with a negative connotation. And she said this applies to all goals, not just writing goals.
From the Booking Desk:
All in all, you can see this was a very stimulating discussion. If you have a chance to see Laura while she is on tour for Wilde Lake, please don’t pass up that opportunity. You won’t regret it. Here is a link to her upcoming schedule.