Kentucky Day 5-8
When I got to the conference, the organizers recognized me–California to Kentuckians is like saying you are from Morocco or something–and I realized how small the conference was. It made me self-conscious and I hid behind a column in the library for awhile. After I got over that, I sat through several talks. One was by Ginger Strand, who wrote this travel/memoir/history book on Niagara Falls. I also listened to the winners of the prize the conference gives out. Most of it was pretty good, but for some reason, they had a slam poet there. I hate slam poetry.
That night, Joyce Carol Oates gave the keynote speech. She is extremely well spoken, brilliant, funny, and seems to know everything about literature. She read a short story about this couple who buys an Emily Dickinson robot that has been imbued with Dickinson’s essence. It was strange and oddly touching. The next day, I went to a Q&A with Oates. On top of all my other opinions of her, I also think she is adorable. When they were gushing over her, the way they do at these things, she got embarrassed and looked down at the table. Then the moderator complimented this shiny pink blouse she was wearing (circa 1989 or so) and there was this strange emotion on her face I couldn’t quite interpret. Later, someone asked her the question: How do you, Joyce Carol Oates, manage to produce so much? She said, “I really can’t answer that question. I mean, we all have the same 24 hours in a day.” Then she talked about how her work output is more visible because she publishes and how her mother worked so hard and no one noticed. “Actually, I’m wearing a blouse my mother made me,” Oates said, referring to the pink shiny blouse. “So I was really touched that you” –the commentator – “mentioned it.”
After that, I stuck around to hear this first-time novelist tell people that the way to publish a book is to make friends with people you can use to get ahead and to steal ideas. She even advocated lying on her taxes. I walked out of her talk. There are a lot of slimeballs in publishing.
I am in the Houston airport. I have a two-hour layover here. I was a little nervous coming here because of Hurricane Ike–which, by the way, went through Louisville yesterday. By then it was just winds, but it tore up the trees in my mother-in-law’s apartment complex. It knocked one tree over by the roots:
and split one tree in half:
Because of this, the power went out. I was frustrated because I was trying to finish up my article and send it out, but the battery on my laptop kept dying. Finally, we went to Panera Bread and found a place to plug in my laptop so I could finish my work. It’s so hard to write on vacation.
Last night, we hung out with Jeremy and his girlfriend Rachelle. They took us to this restaurant called Proof. It is attached to 21c, a hotel with an art gallery in it. They had an exhibit by Kara Walker, the artist who does stereotypical silhouettes of African American slaves. I have been wanting to see her work for a long time.
There was also this projector that dropped letters from the alphabet on you. Your shadow was projected on the wall and you could stop the letters as they dropped on you. It was one of the best things we saw on the trip. I was trying to figure out how I could get one for my house.
(Me with Kyle behind me. Jeremy and Rachelle are on the right.)
(Kyle and me)
I hope the airline can manage to fly us home without any hassle. I miss my cats. See you tomorrow.