Award-winning author ponders nursing school

Ben Figa

It might surprise avid readers of novelist Jane Hamilton that she never expected to become a professional writer and is now considering nursing school.

Hamilton, an award-winning author and Oak Park native, answered audience members’ questions and read from her work Wednesday night at the Evanston Library.

One of her most well-known works is “The Book of Ruth,” which won the 1988 Ernest Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award. She also wrote “A Map of the World,” which became a major motion picture starring Sigourney Weaver and Julianne Moore.

But despite her success, Hamilton never wanted to make writing her career, she said to an audience of mostly Evanston residents and a few Northwestern students.

“Writing is nothing I could do in the daylight,” Hamilton said.

She described herself as decadent and indulgent for never having to get a “real” job, although she enjoys the freedom writing affords.

“It gives me a chance to live another life,” Hamilton said.

The author, who now lives on an apple orchard in Wisconsin, said that she is taking a break from writing. She expressed a desire to go to nursing school.

However she revealed that she had a “kernel” of inspiration for a new book, but did not mention any details.

Audience members participated in a question and answer session with the author, and when asked how she felt about the movie adaptation of “A Map of the World,” Hamilton said she preferred not to be very involved with the movie.

“I knew it would be an exercise in futility,” Hamilton said. “Movies are ephemeral when compared to books.”

In addition to fielding questions, Hamilton also read a short story titled “Rehearsing the Firebird” that she wrote about a little girl’s fantastic imagination and the trouble she started because of it.

Similar to the romance in the film “Clueless,” in which a teen-age girl attempts to make her teachers fall in love, Hamilton’s story tells of a little girl who imagines a dramatic love affair developing between two teachers.

The story is about an imagined relationship between the awkward and pitiable conductor of the school orchestra and a sweaty and fragile French teacher.

The short story provoked bouts of laughter from the crowd, many of whom have read Hamilton’s other works.

Hamilton’s short stories have been featured in Harper’s Magazine, and both “The Book of

Ruth” and “A Map of the World” were selections by Oprah’s Book Club. She recently released two new novels, “The Short History of a Prince” and “Disobedience.”

Her appearance was part of the River Oaks Arts 2000-01 Reading Series and was cosponsored by the Evanston Public Library and Rhino: The Poetry Forum.