wordstock, pt.1

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Wordstock, pt. 2
Wordstock, pt. 3

Wordstock, you rock! This year was different, but every bit as enjoyable in its way as last year's inaugural event. If you want to read about my experience at Wordstock last year, just click over on april 2005 in the archives. Wordstock posts spill over into May, because I was, perhaps, a tad long-winded.

I met D. at 9:30 outside the convention center in front of the giant Korean bell that scares the bejezus out of me because it gongs without warning. (And I chose the spot! Why do I do these things to myself?). D. has chosen "Baby Boy" as his internet pseudonym, but honestly I can't be typing that out more than once without feeling like I am in the middle of some bizarro-world Brandy video that takes place in a book festival. So, I am shortening it to B.B. or maybe even BB.

10 AM: Peter Ames Carlin -- reading from his book Catch A Wave: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of Brian Wilson, which unfortunately isn't out yet due to hold-ups in acquiring legal permission for publishing lyrics. (Here is a piece he wrote on Smile found on the Brian Wilson website. I think it gives a taste of what Carlin writing about Wilson is all about.) He was the first author I saw, and I did have to do a small amount of arm-twisting to get BB to agree to it. But as it turns out, it was all good. Carlin redeemed himself to BB by using the phrase "Johnny Law" early on. There was only a small crowd, but enough people that I didn't feel totally conspicuous. Because that's what this is all about, right?
Carlin is the television critic for the Oregonian, and I have always enjoyed his column. He's pretty snarky, but sneaky snarky which is even more fun. BB wrote in my notebook that "he has a great radio voice," which he DOES. My notes (why do I even bother? -- they are cryptic to me even five minutes later) say "Vibrations = DOGS," which I think was in reference to how BW got the idea for the song Good Vibrations (something about how dogs perceive vibrations from people and can tell if they like you or not immediately .. and how BW extrapolated that into human interactions, etc. etc. probably best to read the book when it finally comes out and get the real deal, not the half-assed scribbly note version). Also in my notes for this page was a spirited game of hangman where BB tried to guess my middle name, got all letters but ONE, and still doesn't know -- even with the added hint that my parents were not only hippies, but hippie nerds. The answer is so obvious. (only one letter missing!) But, I digress. The book sounded great, and should be out in June.

11 AM: Sassy Stories: Curtis Sittenfeld, Thisbe Nissen, Vendela Vida
This panel was called "sassy stories," and I just don't get it. Is it because they're all women? It didn't really strike me as a panel either, because it was just three authors reading within the hour allotted. It seems like panels should have tables, those name-plate things, glasses of water, and microphones. And a moderator. And a topic. But, perhaps I am splitting hairs and stuck in the past, or actually just thinking of a congressional hearing or Dr. Evil's roundtable of villains.

Thisbe Nissen: I think that I would have liked the piece she read better if I were reading it on the page rather than hearing it. It was STUFFED with details (like what's in the bottom of someone's purse, the contents and mishaps in the dressmakers shop, the relationships and driving history of every single person who ever lived in this town... ) all to get to the point where a bride is stuck in a bathroom stall in her unflattering ankle-showing wedding dress (see above re: mishaps) trying to deal with a bloody tampon and unspoken family issues during a tornado warning, etc. etc. It didn't work for me in the setting, and I felt like I was supposed to be appreciating how IMPORTANT the lump of mints in the bottom of the maid-of-honor's sister's niece's purse was. I won't say what the hangman word was during this reading, but the other note was "wouldn't it be awesome if a tornado came RIGHT NOW?" I know, I know. But BB came up with a really good hand gesture for a tornado, which cracked me up the rest of the weekend. I really do think that this was a case of venue and material not meshing particularly well.

Curtis Sittenfeld: So... I was already riled up from the mints and blood and tornados from the previous reading, so when Sittenfeld started reading about characters Fig,(slutty) Hannah (less slutty), and Henry (I'm guessing slutty) my eyeballs were ready to roll. Fig and Hannah both love Henry, blah blah, go to fancy schools "but neither of them is Harvard." Sigh. Again, something that I might enjoy reading on my own, but I was perversely irritated hearing it out loud. I am sure it is something to do with failings of my character and no reflection on the author. I haven't read any of her stuff, but Prep looks interesting and I will check it out.

Vendela Vida: Vida was more to my taste, but I was irrationally pissy after the first two "sassy" readings. Her piece was more... delicate? That's not the right word. I don't know -- it seemed less concerned with objects and really captured my interest in the brief time she had to read.

My notes for this panel are best not described, except for the ending note which was "not enough johnny law in this panel. too much hair shirt." (Thisbe Nissen mentioned "hair shirt" at LEAST twice. I can empathize since Hair Shirt, once invoked, is hard to get out of your head.) Despite the fact that it wasn't very panel-y, all three authors were very gracious about answering questions, even the terrifically stupid ones. If you've ever been to a reading you know the ratio of good to stupid questions -- they were VERY gracious.

more wordstock posts to follow!
6 comments on "wordstock, pt.1"
  1. P.A. Carlin here, the snarky guy. Thanks for checking out my reading at Wordstock, and for being moved to comment. The actual copies of CAW should be around...sometime. I'll try to make it obvious when they are. My next big gig, for anyone keeping track is at OPB's "Live Wire" on May 18, at the Aladdin. Then on the radio a week or so afterwards. Check it out....not just for me (as if) but also for Stephen Malkmus, Mark Acito, and lots of other cool people.

  2. Your middle name is so hippie-nerdy that I forget it all the time even though you've told me what it is several times. Well, at least twice! It starts with a G and that's all I know! Is that BB's missing letter???

  3. P.A. Carlin -- yay for Live Wire! I go to those tapings a lot, and that sounds like a good show. BB will be stoked that his "radio voice" comment turned out to be so prescient. I'll keep my eyes open for when CAW manifests in physical form -- I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to almost have it available. Thanks for stopping by. (and I meant snarky in a good way!)

    Leslita -- no, he got the G, he missed the R! (and no, it's not gorilla like my sister used to tell people)

  4. I wish I had a photographic memory because I could now fill in the blanks of the middle name that I am unable to come up with...the helpful hint regarding hippies and nerds is not so helpful after all since I have never fell into either of those categories, as far as I am aware, I suppose. I am also happy that I apparently have an ear for a "radio voice" even though I rarely listen to the radio. I guess that's all and I guess that saying "right on peace to all people" should just go without saying?

  5. About: "It seems like panels should have tables, those name-plate things, glasses of water, and microphones. And a moderator. And a topic. But, perhaps I am splitting hairs and stuck in the past, or actually just thinking of a congressional hearing or Dr. Evil's roundtable of villains."

    [Gad, the dictionary and the keyboard won't both fit on my desk!]

    Panel definition #5: a group of persons selected for a specific purpose, as judging a contest, discussing an issue publicly, performing on a radio or TV quiz show, etc.

    Maybe 3-people-reading-from-their-novels falls under the category of performing. But they could still have had those glasses of water, for sure! Especially since it was so nice out, right?

  6. BBD - I think even if you had a photographic memory you might be scratching your head over this one. It's not very common (for good reason!) although I suspect there is a whole new generation of girl-children who are going to be similarly afflicted.

    Patty - OH, SURE, use the dictionary! If you have to go all the way to definition #5, though...


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