Sunday, April 03, 2005

Brushes with Greatness at AWP

Howard Norman said “Hello” to me before the Anne Carson reading. I was standing, as is my wont, next to the free water drinking as much as possible before I dashed to the bathroom and back before the reading started. He walked by and I made eye contact and he said “Hello.” I am sorry to report that I did not shake his hand.
But wait, that happened the day after the reception after the reading by Michael Ondaatje. I missed the reading because of a long, fabulous meal at Rain City Grill with AWP Board Member (Husband and Adorable! Baby), Writing Conference President, Writer Friend, and Graduate School Friend. I had to change out of my Conference Presentation Shoes (black boots with heels) and into running shoes. By the time I got to the reading they had closed the doors and would not let me in. So I went out for a drink (I love how you can get draft hard cider, like, basically everywhere but SLC) and then to the reception for the authors whose reading I had missed. I liked how MO was grandfatherly, complete with white hair. Also: much shorter than I had realized. I guess everyone is. I was drinking Jack & Ginger (did I mention the Open Bar?) and “stalking” the famous people.
Wallace Shawn: Yeah. What the hell? Apparently he’s “involved” with Deborah Eisenberg so he was there. A few young girls had their picture taken with him. I was not so bold. I admired him from afar. “Wallace Shawn,” I imagined myself saying. “I loved you in Vanya on 42nd Street. And My Dinner with Andre? Loved it.” Sadly, when I tried to explain who he was to everyone, I invariably had to revert to “Princess Bride.” Others knew him because of his voice over work in “Toy Story.”
Anne Carson began her reading by reciting a “Short Talk” and then the audience (divided into two choruses) responded with “Let’s buy it!” and “What a bargain!” She read some translations of Catullus and an oratorio with a repeating chorus using lines from Gertrude Stein and a piece she had written “about” an work of art, each line beginning with “if…” I, and a few others, gave her a standing ovation. She was so fabulous. She exceeded my expectations.
I also saw some of my great former teachers and other fantastic and generous writers. Most notably: Joe Wenderoth of Letters to Wendy’s fame; Pam Houston; Kevin McIlvoy, (check out his new book at Graywolf Press); Bruce Beasley, (new book, Lord Brain, from University of Georgia Press); Peter Covino (Cut off the Ears of Winter, New Issues Press); also check out everything from FC2, including Karen Brennan’s new book.
Also I saw the library in downtown Vancouver. Look familiar? As my friends said, they got the rough draft, we got the glorious glassy perfected jewel. C'mon, we have to have something over Vancouver. Besides the sunshine that is.
All in all, a fantastic trip aside from the 3:45 (yes, a.m.) alarm and 6:25 departure. Plus springing forward. See you next year in Austin!
Perhaps I'll post the text of my presentation tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

So that's what became of you on Friday night! Jack and Ginger with the stars! I snuck into hear M.O. (after much wheedling of the guard) and sat on the floor next to Felicia and I am ashamed to say we both fell asleep but managed to hear bits of his reading through a haze of wine and semiconsciousness. Then I went back to the hotel and directly to sleep.

By the way. You are SO funny!

Graduate School Friend (ms)

Lisa B. said...

Anne Carson is a combination rock star/goddess to me. Arrgh. I hear from the Westminster folks that there may be an in, so perhaps she'll come to SLC someday. Her invention knows no bounds--she seems utterly fearless. I want to grow up to be like her.

Wallace Shawn and Deborah Eisenberg have been partners (I thought married, but perhaps not) for years. I too love his work in pretty much everything. I must also note a stellar performance in Clueless, which I had occasion to view again on cable. What a winner.