I hit the ground running at 8:30 a.m., presenting “Impressions of Jacques Rigaut”–excerpts of Rigaut narrative from Housebreaking the Muse–as part of the panel “Dreams of Dada/Surrealism.” I was in the distinguished company of Steve Katz, Yuriy Tarnawsky, and conference co-director, Dimitri Anastasopoulos. Each of us had, I believe, a wildly different take on the nature and purpose of the panel. Consequently, the panel ignited some unexpected, and therefore most welcome, discursive ricochets and pyrotechnics. The Q&A following was lively. Davis Schneiderman offered that he was beginning to doubt the very possibility of dreams, and the more PC members of the audience–the ones who take umbrage with the notion an author earns some sort of privileged status by devoting his or her life to, you know, writing–gasped at my suggestion that writers are dreamers, and “the ones who chronicle dreams.” Maybe I should have emended: “the ones who chronicle dreams … well.” But, then again, I may have been digging myself an even deeper grave! Steve Katz’s piece on writing by flashlight beneath tented bed sheets held up by a stuffed donkey penis was absolutely marvelous and hysterical!
The panel concluded my participation in &Now2009. Duty called, and I had to break camp early and make my way back to Pittsburgh. Not, however, before having the pleasure and honor of sharing lunch with three luminaries: Rikki Ducornet, Mary Caponegro, and Joanna Scott, whose reading later in the day I would sadly miss (along with what I hear was a compelling reading of new material by Percival Everett). Our host, Dimitri, and Dave Kress also made up what, for me, would be the “last supper.” The conversation, perhaps driven by a bit of literary fatigue, turned light, though I did learn from Rikki that surrealism is indeed alive and well, though perhaps not mining the same vein as the Parisians of the 1920s and 30s.
Once again, my heartfelt thanks goes out to Dimitri for inviting me to the lunch, and also for organizing, along with Christina Milletti, a thoroughly successful conference.
On that point, I must say I was struck by the size of &Now 2009. It has grown significantly since the last edition I attended in 2004. I was struck by the fact that the conference now attracts not only writers, but domestic and international literary critics seeking to meet face to face with the authors they study. What’s more, Dimitri and Christina not only enlisted an impressive roster of talent, but artfully composed panels to bring together the range of thought and perspectives necessary for engaging discourse. I come away from the conference thoroughly excited, energized, and ready to dive into my writing season.