Happenings & Goings On
On Monday, George Saunders came to Pitt. I went to a Q&A session after lunch, asked him about what it was like to transition from fiction to nonfiction. He answered that he felt as though he was holding back the punches in nonfiction. The people were real, so it wasn’t so easy to be biting and mean. I wasn’t sure how to interpret what he said. Part of me felt like he was saying that nonfiction folk pussyfoot and care about ‘feelings’ more than plucky fiction folk. Which, I suppose can be true. But I agree. There’s something scary writing about people you know.
This weekend I’ll be grading student portfolios and reading submissions for Hot Metal Bridge. I’m very excited about our upcoming issue. We have an interview with Daphne Gottlieb and some nonfiction from Roy Kesey. The issue launches Oct. 29th. Video of the Saunders reading may or may not be available sometime soon before or after. Check it out.
(PS, before I forget. That’s my giant head right there, blocking Emily Stone and George Saunders. And I’m making a stupid face. Awesome! Photocredit goes to Carolyn Kellogg)
I joke with Carolyn sometimes that we are in so many ‘clubs’ together. She’s the editor-in-chief of HotMetalBridge, I’m the nonfiction editor (co-editor technically). We co-host the MFA Reading Series on campus. We’re also active members of the Creative Nonfiction Society (I’m an officer, she’s honorary – since she’s actually a fiction MFA). Part of the reason we do this is because everyone else seems so apathetic. I know I’m in graduate school to write a book (Book with a capital B most days), but I’m also here to take advantage of opportunities. Working with a literary journal = opportunity. Working to improve the value of my degree = opportunity.
Getting outloud reading experience and supporting a venue that presents my peer’s work in a pressure free environment = opportunity. Tonight’s reading was spectacular. Emily Gropp and Robin Clarke read some beautiful poetry. And all eight people in the audience really enjoyed it. You should support your local readings if you can. Let local talent develop!
On Monday night Saunders captured the attention of the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium. Tonight two poets did much the same. Saunders cracked us up. There was a moment when my smile hurt, it stretched out so. Getting to hear his voice, his inflection, his tonal irony felt like an early Holiday. I miss risky writers sometimes. Both Emily and Robin take risks. I forget good writers I know are capable of producing such thoughtful work. Robin writes monographs, isolated prose-poems built around abstract ideas that are both hilarious and poignant, sad and joyful. Emily writes about her time in Lebanon last summer, the summer of 2006, the summer of bombs dropping on Beirut. She depicts a chaos that’s rooted in the mundane; she writes us as we are, as selfish and beautiful human beings who manage to survive, and she does it poetically.
Maybe I just enjoy going to readings.