Chad Harbach & Karen Russell at Folger Elizabethan Theatre Tuesday, Feb. 5

A well-reviewed first novel can be a blessing and a curse. Sales feel wonderful, yes—but the high expectations that follow can be stifling. The authors of two of 2011’s most lauded debut novels will discuss this fate at PEN/Faulkner’s latest reading series. Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding draws on the heavy literary tradition of Melville to tell a story about college baseball in the Midwest that’s compelling even to readers who dislike sports and literature with a capital L. Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! describes an entirely different American pastime—alligator wrestling in Florida—but both authors created the kinds of coming-of-age tales that readers and critics alike enjoyed. The authors will read from their work and explain their ideas about modern America in literature tonight. Enjoy the books now, before both are turned into HBO series.

The reading begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Folger Elizabethan Theatre, 201 East Capitol St. SE. $15. (202) 898-9063. penfaulkner.org.

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