Nancy Pearl

The Week (US) - - Arts 23 - El­liott Feld­man Gwen­dolyn Sari

Nancy Pearl oc­cu­pies a unique po­si­tion in Amer­ica’s lit­er­ary ecosys­tem, said

in Seat­tle Mag­a­zine. A li­brar­ian who’s at­tained rock­star sta­tus, the long­time read­ing evan­ge­list was work­ing at the Seat­tle Pub­lic Li­brary 19 years ago when she launched the idea of hav­ing a whole city read the same book at the same time, an ini­tia­tive that spread across the coun­try. She’s since be­come an NPR con­trib­u­tor and lo­cal TV host, and though the 72-year-old book­worm has had an ac­tion fig­ure mod­eled af­ter her (the doll has a “push to shush” but­ton), she claims to do lit­tle ex­cept con­sume more lit­er­a­ture. “I don’t have a life,” she says. “I live my life through the books I read.” The funny thing is, she didn’t even in­tend to write a first novel, un­til the ti­tle char­ac­ters of her just­pub­lished de­but, Ge­orge and Lizzie, popped into her head.

Pearl wasn’t in a nor­mal state of mind at the time, said

in Pub­lish­ers Weekly. Hav­ing just un­der­gone foot surgery, she may have been feel­ing the ef­fect of painkillers when she first glimpsed them: a mar­ried cou­ple who’d met in a Michi­gan bowl­ing al­ley and had dif­fer­ing ideas about what mar­riage should be. Then they didn’t go away, reap­pear­ing to Pearl dur­ing quiet mo­ments for years. “A sen­tence would ap­pear and I would fid­dle with it,” she says, dis­cov­er­ing the cou­ple’s story as Ge­orge and Lizzie slowly re­vealed them­selves, snap­shot by snap­shot. Once Pearl be­gan piec­ing to­gether that story, though, Ge­orge and Lizzie sur­prised her again by guid­ing her to throw out the end­ing she thought they were head­ing for. “I mark it down,” she says, “to their hav­ing ma­tured more than I re­al­ized dur­ing the time I was writ­ing.”

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