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Historical Fiction

In conversation with Whitney Scharer, author of The Age of Light

Wednesday, October 23

7:00 - 8:30 pm

Concord Free Public Library

129 Main Street

In July of 1953, at a glittering party thrown by Truman Capote in Portofino, Italy, Tennessee Williams and his longtime lover Frank Merlo meet Anja Blomgren, a mysteriously taciturn young Swedish beauty and aspiring actress. Their encounter will go on to alter all of their lives.Ten years later, Frank revisits the tempestuous events of that fateful summer from his deathbed in Manhattan, where he waits anxiously for Tennessee to visit him one final time. Anja, now legendary film icon Anja Bloom, lives as a recluse in the present-day U.S. until a young man connected to the events of 1953 lures her reluctantly back into the spotlight after he discovers she possesses the only copy of Williams’s unknown final play—written especially for her.What keeps two people together and what breaks them apart? Can we save someone else if we can’t save ourselves? Like The Master and The Hours, Leading Men seamlessly weaves fact and fiction to navigate the tensions between public figures and their private lives. In an ultimately heartbreaking story about the burdens of fame and the complex negotiations of life in the shadows of greatness, Castellani creates an unforgettable leading lady in Anja Bloom and reveals the hidden machinery of one of the great literary love stories of the twentieth-century.


Meet Christopher Castellani

Reviews

“Blazing...casts a spell right from the start. [Leading Men] vividly reimagines the relationship between Williams and Frank Merlo, and offers intricate thoughts about the nature of fidelity, the artistic impulse, and estrangement... [Castellani’s] scenes glitter... This book is a kind of poem in praise of pleasure. Its author knows a great deal about life; better, he knows how to express what he knows. But this is an alert, serious, sweeping novel. To hold it in your hands is like holding, to crib a line from Castellani, a front-row opera ticket.” Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“Dazzling... [Castellani writes] with an evocative precision that historical fiction often merely aspires to.” Entertainment Weekly

“Castellani’s spectacular fourth novel... hits the trifecta of being moving, beautifully written, and a bona fide page-turner. This is a wonderful examination of artists and the people who love them and change their work in large and imperceptible ways.” Publishers Weekly (Starred)

Biography

Christopher Castellani is the son of Italian immigrants and a native of Wilmington, Delaware. He currently lives in Boston, where he is the artistic director of Grub Street, the country’s largest and leading independent creative writing center. He is the author of three critically-acclaimed novels, A Kiss from Maddalena (Algonquin Books, 2003)—winner of the Massachusetts Book Award in 2004— The Saint of Lost Things (Algonquin, 2005), a BookSense (IndieBound) Notable Book; and All This Talk of Love (Algonquin, 2013), a New York Times Editors’ Choice and finalist for the Ferro-Grumley Literary Award. The Art of Perspective: Who Tells the Story, a collection of essays on point of view in fiction, was published in 2016 by Graywolf Press. He has recently completed a new novel, Leading Men, for which he received Fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Leading Men was published in February 2019 by Viking Penguin.

In addition to his work with Grub Street, Christopher is on the faculty and academic board of the Warren Wilson MFA program and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Christopher was educated at Swarthmore College, received his Masters in English Literature from Tufts University, and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University.

Other Works