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Mary Gordon Reads from 'Circling My Mother'

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Book Tour is a new Web feature and podcast. Each week we present leading authors of fiction and nonfiction as they read from and discuss their work.

Mary Gordon's new memoir, Circling My Mother, chronicles how Gordon comes to terms with her mother's life and work — as a legal secretary on Long Island — and with her Roman Catholic faith. Gordon also meditates on her mother's death, which came after a long and difficult period of dementia.

Gordon's best-selling novels have been celebrated as much for the precision of her language as for her powers of observation. In this book chat, she reflects upon how the visual, and even the olfactory, help her convert sensation into prose.

If that reminds you of Proust and his famous madeleines, that may be because Proust is one of Gordon's literary heroes. In this podcast, Gordon also talks about the late-19th century French painter Pierre Bonnard, contrasting the experience of caring for her aging mother with that of Bonnard, who painted loving, unflinching, color-saturated portraits of his wife as she died from a long chronic illness.

This reading of Circling My Mother took place in August 2007 at the in Washington, D.C.

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