Some might be familiar with composer John Cage’s radical work, 4’33”, which instructs musicians not to play during the entire length of the piece. But have you ever heard of a book reading where there is no reading?
According to “Shelf Awareness,” Common Good Books in St. Paul, Minnesota, hosted author Terry Tempest Williams for an evening that included a “reading without reading.” The subject of the author’s book, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice, emerged after Williams’ mother bequeathed three shelves of private journals to the author after she died. Williams was shocked to discover that all of the journals were empty, and began wrestling with the mystery of her inheritance, and the question–what does it mean to have a voice? Williams writes, “Behind darkness is our fear. Within silence our voice dwells. What is required from both is that we be still. We focus. We listen. We see and we hear. The unexpected emerges.”
The event wasn’t completely silent. Fans had an opportunity to talk to the author and her husband in an intimate setting. Midway through the evening, musicians performed Cage’s4’33”. Williams writes, “Silence introduced in a society that worships noise is like the Moon exposing the night.”