Saturday, April 21, 2012
Hanging out with Jay Parini
He's just one of those extraordinarily productive people--and I'm getting an idea for an essay! Or book! (But I'm too lazy to write it.)
But it didn't work out. I retired. A colleague, Jeannie Kidera, took on the heavy lifting of making specific arrangements, etc.
And on Thursday night he arrived.
On Friday, I went up to school (wearing a tie for the first time since last year's commencement!) and heard him read a few poems and have a brief Q&A in the Chapel. The students laughed a lot, especially when he told them that his favorite day in church as a boy was when the missionaries would come and show their slides of naked natives.
Later, I picked him up after lunch and walked down to Caribou to chat about common interests--including the novels of Anthony Trollope (about whom I'm going to chat with the WRA community on May 4). We stopped at my house afterwards, briefly, so that he could sign a bunch of books for me (ever the mercenary, I).
After school was a reception at Wilson Hall--a number of students and faculty stopped by to chat one more time ere Sasha, a colleague, whisked him off to the airport.
I've loved these personal encounters with writers. A quick (inaccurate?) list: Ursula K. Le Guin, Lee Smith (both via teleconference), Matthew Pearl, Tobias Wolff, Sharon Olds, Robert Sullivan, Brock Clarke, Dan Chaon, Brian Hall, Jay Parini.
I experienced nothing like it as a student (Hawthorne did not sit in my classroom and discuss snotty little Pearl). But can you imagine? Reading a book, then sitting in a classroom with him/her and asking whatever you want? "Mr. Faulkner, why do you drink so much?" "Ms. Millay, is it true that you're promiscuous? And if you are, what are you doing after class?"
And: "Mr. Shakespeare, what were you smoking?"