Portland is in the midst of the first ever Wordstock convention this weekend. It's a five day event focusing on literature, with an exhibitors hall and reading stages. There are also big "pay to see" events like Norman Mailer.
The exhibitors seemed to be mainly from the Northwest, and outside of some of the more arty small presses like Tin House and the PIPE Group, I wasn't all that impressed. It seemed like a lot of self-help and crap about mountaineering. I felt very out of place. Even browsing the selections at the reading areas for Powell's and Borders, I was wondering where the hell I fit in. I feel like I am almost too normal to be writing modern fiction. I'm not interested in oddball hooks or extreme tragedy. "It's about a one-legged male prostitute who falls for a transgender breast cancer survivor!" That's just not me, but it seems like what sells.
Ironically, the one event I did want to see (after my friend Bart King's presentation for The Big Book of Boy Stuff), was the reading by Wesley Stace (the music artist John Wesley Harding; and now that we know his real name is Stace, it brings new meaning to his album The Confessions of St. Ace) from his book Misfortune, about gender-bending in the 1800s. But it's more Tristram Shandy than exploitative crap like The Station Agent (to mix a movie in my analogy). For some reason I got nervous when having him sign Misfortune and giving him a copy of Cut My Hair, and I think I ended up sounding like a lunatic. If you happen to see him, apologize for me. I was the guy in the suit with the red and black striped tie. They probably put Cut My Hair in a tank and sprayed it with hoses to make sure it wasn't a bomb.
One thing that did strike me as I stood at the trolly station listening to the soundtrack to 2046 and thinking of my next novel, They Are All In Love, is that I do maybe have more in common with my hero Wong Kar-Wai than I was giving myself credit for. Writing the synopsis of The Everlasting was a strange experience because it doesn't have the kind of big capital-P plot that creative writing classes and writing magazines push at us. It's not about that. It's a series of moments strung together, the moments that comprise how we relate to one another. A plot is formed when they are put together, but you don't always have the obvious Conflict-Complication-Resolution basics. It feels like I'm walking a fine line when I go out to sell it, though, since you sell it on the basics--like a synopsis. I wish things operated on the simple concept of "Just read it, you'll get into it."
Still, one soldier's on. After all, I'd rather feel like the oddball. Belonging is so boring.
Current Sountrack: Brian Jonestown Massacre, Tepid Peppermint Wonderland: A Retrospective disc 2
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2005 Jamie S. Rich