Woodstock’s ever-busy Golden Notebook hosts two author readings this weekend. On Saturday, February 6 at 4 p.m., the bookstore celebrates the town’s own seer-in-residence, Suzan Saxman, whose memoir The Reluctant Psychic has just come out in paperback.
Saxman believes that the dead are all around us, and that they came to her from the time she was a little girl with urgent messages for the living. Growing up in Staten Island in the 1960s, she shared her strange visions as soon as she could talk, alarming the nuns in her convent school and terrifying her own mother. She says that she was always skeptical of her “gift,” as is the case with most prominent fortune tellers, Saxman was not eager to give psychic readings, moving from place to place to evade those who sought her advice and predictions until she finally settled in Woodstock. In her book, she tells the story of her journey and tries to make sense of her family’s buried secrets.
Then, on Sunday, February 7 at 2 p.m., the Golden Notebook will receive a more corporeal visitation: Alexander Chee, author of the award-winning 2002 novel Edinburgh, which Junot Diaz praised as “unstoppable.” Chee has spent the intervening years laboring over an epic historical novel inspired by the life of American expat singer Jenny Lind, titled The Queen of the Night.
Called “brilliantly extravagant” by Vogue, the new novel is set in the Paris of the Second French Empire. There, a famous American-born soprano called Lilliet Berne is offered an original role in a new opera that could only be based on a part of her life that she had hoped to keep secret. Only four people could be responsible, she thinks: Of them, one is dead, one loves her, one desires her and the last, she believes, never thinks of her at all. In the process of searching for the source, she must face parts of her past that she had hoped to forget – a past that includes stints as a bareback performer in a circus, maid to the Empress Eugénie of France, German war hero and lover to a Prussian tenor. The novel is peppered with cameos of historical figures such as Verdi, Turgenev, George Sand, Napoleon III and the Countess di Castiglione.
Both author appearances are free and open to the public. The Golden Notebook is located at 29 Tinker Street in Woodstock. For more info, call (845) 679-8000 or visit www.goldennotebook.com.