Geraldine Brooks read from “The Secret Chord,” her latest novel, and answered questions about it at the last Evening Readings series.
The event was held at LeFrak Concert Hall on Feb. 16. It was heavily attended with people like Queens College President Felix Matos Rodriguez in the audience.
Brooks is the author of four novels including the Pulitzer Prize-winning “March” and “Caleb’s Crossing.” She’s also written non-fiction books like “Foreign Correspondence” and “Nine Parts of Desire.”
But Brooks is not just an award-winning author, she is also a journalist. She worked for The Wall Street Journal covering the Middle East, including the 1990-91 Gulf War.
“The Secret Chord,” released in 2015, is about David, the famous figure and second king of Israel found in the Old Testament of the Bible. Nathan, David’s prophet, is the narrator of the novel.
The book focuses less on the myth of David and his journey, and more on his forgotten or neglected experiences. This includes meetings with family members like Nizevet, his mother, and Solomon, his son. His wives—Mikal, Avigail and Batsheva—also are highlighted in the book.
Joseph Cuomo, founding director of the Evening Readings, began the event by talking Brooks’ writing style.
“One of the things that I find most remarkable about the work of Geraldine Brooks is how completely different each of her novels is in comparison to all the others,” he said. “[There are] stories that take place in different countries, different cultures and different centuries.”
Cuomo introduced Brooks to the podium, whom read a segment of “The Secret Chord” to the audience.
Leonard Lopate, host of WNYC’s “The Leonard Lopate Show,” interviewed Brooks for the event. The two spoke about the book’s inspiration that comes from Brooks’ son, Nathaniel, whom wanted to play the harp. The Australian author thought about a boy harpist in the Bible and decided to read the story of David.
“I never read it. I only knew the engraved, cliche version, or the story most of us know,” she said. “But there’s so much more as everything happens to this guy. This is a man whose life is filled with every possible human experience, the best and the worst of them.”
Lopate elaborated on how the story of David is similar to writings of English playwright William Shakespeare and Italian writer Niccolo Machiavelli. Brooks said there stories that can influence others too.
“I actually got a note from a friend, who is a Shakespeare scholar, and she [couldn’t believe I] stole Shakespeare’s ‘tying the bed sheets together’ when David is trying to escape from the King.” she said. “But, I told her that Shakespeare stole it from the bible.”
Brooks explained how she went to Abraham Joshua Heschel, a famous Hebrew historian, to learn more about the roll the prophets played in ancient Israel.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for prophets in the Bible. They are so annoying. They’re the people who tell you what you don’t want to hear and do it so poetically. I think we need those people badly,” she said.
Audience members were able to ask questions to Brooks. Afterward, the author signed books for people interested.
For more information on the next Evening Readings series, visit www.qcreadings.org.