Sunday, October 12, 2014

It's the Most. Wonderful Time. Of the year.

Blogging has fallen aside this year, along with many other things that require the tiny bits of my brain that are left at the end of the day. But I often still think in blog posts. I'll land on a topic that I can't wait to organize a few paragraphs about, collect a photo, and share with the world. I have dozens of photos on my camera of books I've loved reading that I meant to talk about. I have whole manifestos scribbled in notebooks on everything from how hard it is to be a writer to where the hell did all the sleeves go on wedding dresses????

So what has finally inspired me to post? My very favorite festival of the year is back! Litquake, my beloved literary festival, is back in its FIFTEENTH year, and for the first time in a long time, I'm enjoying it as a participant rather than an organizer. It's a heady experience to consume words, to soak up the atmosphere, and enjoy the wide variety of audiences it pulls in, all sharing a common love of reading. I was reminded of a story I created last year, trying to capture the feeling of being an audience member. And I want to share it.

Before I do, if you're looking for a reading or some Lit Crawl madness, the whole program of this week's events can be found here: http://www.litquake.org/calendar Many events are free; they are all interesting. Find a topic, genre, author, venue, etc. that you love and go. You won't regret it.

And now, my story:

The Reading

You’re sitting there, waiting for the reading to start, hoping for it to begin because waiting in crowds makes your social anxiety flare up and you don’t have an iPhone yet.  An iPhone would be great, then you could always look like you have something important to look at, rather than trying to seem very concerned with the hem of your skirt while quite obviously not having anyone to talk to.  You hope the author is a good speaker, you loved their book and you really want to love them.  You hope with all your heart that they don’t disappoint you with their humanness.  You hope they aren’t pretentious, are funny, and that they’re kind of good looking, but not so good looking that you begin to feel even more self-conscious about your outfit. 

And then there they are: walking up to the podium, the mike stand, the front of the room of wherever you are for this night of literature, and they are speaking.  And they are saying all the things you want to hear.  And they are charming, but not too charming, and you love the way they have a little stain on their red shoe that they obviously tried to wash off but failed.  And that’s when you really, really think you could be them.  You could be that person up there reading from your book, making the crowd laugh at your jokes and charming them with your story of challenge and perseverance.  They are a rock star in this twenty-person crowd of envy, and you were destined to rock.  You hate them.  They suck.  They have everything you want in life; books with their names on them, reviews in the Times, posh teaching gigs where they can teach students to worship them.      

The Q&A time begins, a mousy woman with fluffy orange hair goes first.  Her question bleeds with desire to be the author, to impress her, to goad her into acknowledging the worth of the questioner.  The next question, a man this time, you guess he is a poet because his question is so soft: from where does your inspiration come?  He follows it up to explain he is struggling, he is parched for ideas and he needs hope from the author that someday he will be able to think again.  The next, an older gentleman, scholarly looking, he is looking for the keys to success and thinks the author is holding them.  Your question, which goes unasked, is how do I become you?


The bookstore owner, mediator or organizer interrupts to explain That will be all, thanks the author and indicates the line for book signings is over there.  You get up, gather your sweater, take your time about it, enough time for the woman next to you to say “Reading is my life.”  That can’t be what she said, but she says it again, staring at you as she does.  “I just can’t get enough books.”  The man next to her says, “I know what you mean, books are my religion.”  And behind us an older woman pulls her shawl close and closes her eyes to moan, “If I couldn’t read I don’t know who I’d be.”  And you are almost crying, except you never cry in public, but you’re so happy you could almost pull it off this once.  These are your people.  They get it.  They love words like you love words, and you may have nothing else in common, but you have that, and it is more than enough.  And it’s only the first day of Litquake.         

2 comments:

  1. That was great. You made me excited to go out and meet some fellow readers.

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  2. I think the previous commenter offers the highest praise you can ask for, but I also enjoyed this. Really captures the experience in all its affirming, disturbing wonder.

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