Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Conferences

While everyone else is abuzz with news of BEA in New York, I have snuck west to Seattle for three weeks. It's my own private Yaddo: mom tends to the beloved toddler while I write. Instead of going to a conference on the book industry, I spent the weekend before at a conference on teaching students to write and will spend this coming weekend in lovely Portland at the Fifteenth Annual International Virginia Woolf Conference. In keeping with my low profile smallness, my conferences take me far afield, firmly in the realm of reading with a small r, literature with a big L, and, well, just about no money changing hands at all.

Having stopped by my friend’s booth at the National Stationery Show at the Javits Center last month (booths and booths of sex-in-the-city, why-French-women-don’t-get-fat, Kate Spade-inspired pseudo-charm mingled with horse cards and odd tarot), I have an inkling of the disorienting fabulousness of a huge show, where books on Spam are ranged alongside masterpieces. I find the book display at the MLA sufficiently sobering.

But how I love conferences! The new acquaintances, the celebrities, the old friends, the chance to talk with enthusiasm about one’s passions without fear of sniggering from your companions. I even—if you can imagine—kind of like staying in dorm rooms (as I often do at these smaller events), although they never have desk lamps and it is really tough to do a bit of bedtime reading under a huge, buzzing fluorescent glare. At the Woolf Conference in New Hampshire, I snuck a huge bottle of Maker’s Mark into the dorm and hosted quite a fete. In London last summer, we closed down a hotel bar in Bloomsbury and staggered to Covent Garden to make sure a friend got back safely. Not all of the fun involves drinking, either. At the very first one, at Pace, I watched a very melodramatic speech, ending in tears, only to hear a more cynical elder stage-whisper “Do you think she cries every time? The next year, in New Haven, I put together a panel with some friends. A young woman came in to see us talk and walked out in a huff, seeing we were so young, “I thought you were going to be real Yale people…”

Elsewhere on the web: Thanks to Dan Wickett, we have a genuinely engaging comparison between first books and first babies by Rachael Perry. You might also want to check out The Flaneur (via Ready Steady Book) and fantasize about joining them in a small absinthe. Book Coolie raves about Suicide Notes and you know I love Book Coolie. Then, I found the Hapa Project and Penguin Remixes so long ago, I can’t figure out how I got there. But, if you want to spend time looking at some cool remixes and hybridizations, check out these sites. The former looks at the self-image of people of mixed racial heritage; the latter, offers a chance to mix some great spoken word tracks with some groovy backbeats for a funky, literary club mix. I don’t dare go back for fear of getting sucked in.

1 comment:

the Happy Booker said...

Music baton passed over at my site. Thanks. I hope you're having a wonderful time and enjoying the free babysitting! Wendi