Mrs. Millions and I don’t get to the theatre that often, but we went to see a play on Friday that I recommend to anyone in Chicago right now. The play is called “Recent Tragic Events” and it looks at the mundane – in this case a blind date – through the lens of tragedy and shock – this blind date is taking place on September 12, 2001. I recommend the play for three reasons. First, and this is the least of the reasons, I went to high school with the director, Mikhael Tara Garver. She helped start Uma Productions in 2001, and she does a really great job putting on this play. Second, the play was penned by Craig Wright who has written for the HBO show, “Six Feet Under,” and he brings that same sensibility to this play. Mixing death and banality, he is unafraid of both the seriousness and the humor that arise in such situations. Finally, and this is where the literary relevance comes in, I recommend this play because that most prolific of authors, Joyce Carol Oates figures prominently in the production. The play’s main character, Waverly, happens to be Oates’ grand-niece, and at one point all of the Oates books on Waverly’s shelves and stacked on the floor in a pile that reaches several feet high before tipping over. For some reason I always get a kick out of pokes at Oates’ prodigious literary output. But then, Oates herself appears, played by – get this – a sock puppet, and, while I know it sounds ridiculous, it’s somehow perfect hearing this bespectacled sock name drop Salman Rushdie and John Updike. The play runs through next weekend at Chopin Theater. If you’re in Chicago, check it out.
All over Book Expo America, the country’s largest book industry trade show, were signs of the major trends in publishing and bookselling. Environmentalism was the order of the day, and everywhere I went there were signs of the industry “going green.” At the American Booksellers Association’s annual Day of Education, Ed Begley Jr. gave the keynote address on how he’s shaped his and his family’s life around notions of conservation, and how independent businesses, particularly indie bookstores, carry on the rich tradition of independent thinking in America. Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now, followed this with a luncheon address that stressed the independent bookselling community’s importance as a bastion of intellectual and political freedom. This set the stage nicely for ABA’s major new initiative.Hours later, the ABA made the long-awaited announcement that Book Sense is no more. It has been replaced by IndieBound, a hipper, younger brand that will attempt to involve independent businesses of every ilk – from independent bookstores to independent dry cleaners to… well, you get the point. I think most everyone would agree that Book Sense had served its purpose and needed reinvigoration. Whereas Book Sense hoped to present a unified front of indies in the face of competition from Borders, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon, IndieBound represents an effort to return to the idea of the neighborhood bookstore and the importance of shopping locally. While the initiative definitely has its share of skeptics (I don’t particularly see how it will help bookstores compete in the online marketplace), it is an infinitely better brand than Book Sense. If the locavore movement can gain traction, maybe this can, as well.Having BEA in LA was something of a mixed blessing. While it was nice to sleep in my own bed at the end of the night, the stress of everyday life added to the stress of being in 24/7 mingle mode can be a bit much. I did my best to partake of the many parties around town, but eventually I ran out of gas. Edan made it to the Skylight Bookstore party, where she ran into Pinky, some cool people from McNally Robinson in NYC (including Jessica from the Written Nerd), Kelly Link and the folks from Small Beer Press. While she was mixing it up there, I went to the Disney Books dinner at Patina. The guest list included some of the major authors in children’s and young adult books today: Eoin Colfer, Jonathan Stroud, Kevin Carroll, Ann M. Martin and Brian Selznick, Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson, Rick Riordan, and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. At first, I was profoundly uncomfortable, as I seemed to be the only person in the room who didn’t have strong opinions on every kids’ book published in the last five years, but after a while (and, let’s face it, a few drinks) I felt more and more at ease. You might think a kids’ book dinner thrown by Disney would be tame. You would be wrong. I didn’t go to every dinner at BEA, but I feel safe in saying this was among the raunchiest. Robert Kennedy told a joke about sexual congress between a leprechaun and a penguin. ‘Nuff said. I laughed throughout dinner and learned a pretty good amount about the authors as well. The evening ended with me convincing a group of booksellers that it would be a good idea to forgo a cab and take the metro to their hotel. The metro only runs until midnight here in LA, and I was warned several times that if we missed the train and ended up stranded in scenic downtown LA, then I would have sold my last book, so to speak. Thankfully for me, we caught the last train out of downtown and everybody lived to see the trade show the next day.The BEA trade show floor, like most large conferences, can be overwhelming without a plan. Mine was fairly simple – spend Friday in panels and meetings, visiting a couple of priority booths in my spare time, then use Saturday (and Sunday, if absolutely necessary) to see the rest of the show. After attending a meeting on the future of the IndieBound webstore, I ducked in to hear Thomas Friedman’s keynote address. He read from his forthcoming book Hot, Flat, and Crowded. While I waited for him to take the stage, I chatted with my neighbor about a Thursday panel I had missed about the future of the e-book. She told me I hadn’t missed much, but that Adobe, Palm, Microsoft, and the others had finally agreed on a single format, making it much easier to compete with the Amazon. Friedman’s address focused again on environmentalism and America’s need to lead the way to finding clean, sustainable sources of energy.After a day of meetings, planned or otherwise (I ran into Nam Le and did a bit of catching up) and a couple of cocktail parties (drinks with Alec Baldwin in support of his book about divorce (Stephen Baldwin was there!), followed by the Ecco Press/Book Soup party at Palihouse, where I drank a sickly sweet champaign cocktail), I was back at BEA early Saturday morning to hit the booths. I put in appearance at McSweeney’s, which was easily the least conspicuous booth there. Just Eli Horowitz and Andrew Leland sitting behind a card table. I made the rounds of the major publishers, guided for a brief bit by Mark Sarvas, who happened to be walking the floor with Jim Ruland of Vermin on the Mount. We hit the Grey Wolf Press booth, where I picked up a copy of a new story collection by Jeffrey Renard Allen called Holding Pattern.Rather than laboriously describe each booth and every galley I got (I got too many), I’ll just touch on the highlights. It seemed I had something nice to say about every book that Da Capo brought with them – I had positively reviewed Des Wilson’s Ghosts at the Table for Publishers Weekly, I had been a long-time vocal advocate of Toby Young’s How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, and I’ve been dying to read David Browne’s biography of Sonic Youth, Goodbye 20th Century, of which I snagged a copy. I had a great time talking to Gavin and Jedediah at Small Beer Press, and walked away with a copy of John Kessel’s The Baum Plan for Financial Independence. Early on Thursday morning, I’d run into Amy and Janet, two women from Athens, GA who are opening a bookstore there called Avid. They introduced me to Eric and Eliza Jane from Two Dollar Radio, a really cool small press publishing bold, innovative fiction by Rudolph Wurlitzer, Amy Koppelman, and others. I did my usual bit of groveling at the feet of the New York Review of Books, where I thanked them for introducing me to J.F. Powers. They were sweethearts and gave me a pin. At the Tin House booth, I talked up Jim Krusoe’s upcoming event at Vroman’s, which resulted in me snagging a couple of books, including Krusoe’s new Girl Factory and a novel by Adam Braver called November 22, 1963. And finally, as the day wore on and my feet swelled to twice their original size, I spotted somebody in the FSG booth pulling ARCs of Robert Bolano’s 2666 out of a box. I grabbed one. It’s 912 pages long, weighs several pounds, and looks better than 90% of the paperbacks published this year. On Saturday night, I slept.For a complete rundown of BEA from the bookseller’s perspective, check out the Vroman’s Bookstore blog.
In 2011, I spent three weeks alone in St. Petersburg, Russia, conducting research for my undergraduate thesis. During that time, I rented an apartment belonging to a family friend’s former nanny. Like most Russians, the nanny was out of town for the season, but her pregnant daughter Nastya lived in the adjoining apartment with her husband Tolik. Although they must have had work, they seemed to be home, like me, at odd hours of the day. Occasionally I would return from the library to find Tolik smoking a furtive cigarette out of the open living room window, or huge vats of fruit boiling, unattended, on the stove. This meant Nastya was making jam, which I would later eat in tiny stolen spoonfuls from the excess jars she stored in her mother’s fridge.
I had hoped Nastya and Tolik would provide a social counterbalance to my asocial days of reading and translating, but the couple adhered to a strict policy of benign neglect. After days without a real conversation, the icons hanging in my bedroom began to take on sympathetic expressions as I vented my research-related frustrations aloud. I was relieved when Nastya and Tolik came over, late one Monday night, to invite me on a daytrip to Finland. They were planning to scope out cheap land for a dacha, Russia’s unpretentious version of the summer home. Naturally, I accepted.
We piled into their well-aged, light blue sedan around 9am on a Wednesday. Tolik drove, Nastya sat in the passenger seat, and I got in the back, which felt cramped even for me who, at 5’2”, was last considered tall in the fifth grade. After stopping for cash at a nearby ATM (for bribes at the border?), we were off. Immediately Tolik bombarded me with questions: Does everyone in America own a gun? Do you have black friends? What’s your grandmother’s pension? What sort of car do you drive? I began to wonder if he had been keeping a list since I arrived. To most of them I pled ignorance (“I don’t know” being one of my favorite Russian phrases), or demurred, “New York City isn’t really America.” Tolik either ran through all the questions on his list, or grew weary of my diplomatic answers, because eventually he turned up the Russian pop on the radio and relaxed into the drive.
I did not relax. I worried about my lungs (the car smelt strongly of diesel) and my teeth (might the engine’s vibrations cause one to chip?), while wistfully eying the poetry book I had brought (if only I had thought of ear plugs…) Trees stood a few feet from the road on both sides; there was nothing to look at but forest, and it all looked the same. Maybe, I thought, I should have stayed home.
As we approached the border crossing, Tolik pulled onto the shoulder and turned the music down. “Do you have your passport?” I held it out to him, visa page open. It was, I realized, a single-entry visa, meaning once I left Russia, I wasn’t allowed to come back. “Put it away,” he told me. Then, “Don’t say anything.” He smiled before turning back onto the road. The guard booths advanced. Visions of Russian prison danced in my head. Tolik rolled down his window and began speaking to the guard like they were old friends from school. Within two minutes, they had waved us into Finland without asking to see so much as a driver’s license.
Tolik and Nastya did not appear to have a destination in mind: they were actively scanning the landscape through their windows, hoping, I imagined, to spot the perfect plot for their dacha, illuminated by a ray of sunlight or ringed, perhaps, with daisies. What they were looking for, it turned out, was water. Tolik hooked a left down a gravel road on the far side of a large lake. It led us to a large decrepit building that looked as if it had once served as an asylum. While Tolik and Nastya searched for a woman to interrogate about the area, I wandered off to photograph a Jeep decaying in the forest.
On the way back, we stopped at Vyborg to see an ancient Swedish fortress. As is often the case in Northern Russia, the day, which had started off blue as a Picasso painting, had turned cold and grey. Only a few minutes after we left the car, the clouds burst open.
“Run!” Nastya shrieked.
We were soaked and breathless when we finally reached the museum. Nastya twisted her hair and laughed as a thin stream of water fell to the floor. Tolik bought us all coffees from a vending machine. We drank them standing up. Then, since the rain had abated, we decided to climb the tower. In the 15 minutes it took to scale the steep, winding stairs, the sun had come out and a rainbow had formed. Tolik insisted on taking several photos of me in front of it, all of which he proclaimed “beautiful,” although, when I looked at them later, I found my eyes were closed in all but two of the pictures.
The drive back was long and miserable. By the time we got home, around 6pm, I was irritable and hungry enough to regret giving up a day of solitude for one transcendent moment in the rain.
But something changed after that. Nastya told me to help myself to her jam. Tolik would offer me a cigarette whenever he came in to smoke even though each time I politely declined. The rain had washed some invisible boundary away.
The following December I got an email from them, wishing me a happy new year. “If you’re planning to come to St. Petersburg in the New Year, stop by for tea,” they wrote, before signing off, “Your Russian friends.”
Images courtesy the author
Last night I went to a reading given by Douglas Coupland during which he read passages from his new novel, Eleanor Rigby, and also previewed a lengthy passage from a work-in-progress. Flying on codeine (Coupland, not me), he shot off on various random tangents that, in the end, were twice as entertaining as the readings themselves.Instructed in piano at a young age, Coupland recently decided to give himself a refresher so that he could impress and astound his family with a note-perfect rendition of that Charlie Brown Christmas Piano Thing (which probably has a simpler title than that). Unfortunately the task proved to be more physically traumatic than expected and his left hand went into painful spasms. Hence the codeine, which incidentally Coupland now swears by and highly recommends for recreational use.I should mention up front that I’m not actually an ardent Coupland reader. In fact, I’ve only read one of his novels (Miss Wyoming). I recall enjoying it thoroughly, but I must also confess that I don’t remember a thing about it. Other than the pleasurable experience of reading it. Otherwise, sorry – complete mental block. However I will say that he’s a tremendously engaging speaker – quick-witted, completely engaged with his audience, and with a dry, understated, almost deadpan delivery.Eleanor Rigby is indeed the story of one of the lonely people – Liz Dunn. Coupland spoke of the manner in which he describes his characters and his settings. How, in some works, he deliberately avoids over-describing things, leaving the reader to project his own image of a certain protagonist, or of a certain room. Other times, as Liz Dunn herself states, there should be no confusion as to the detail. So, here, the facts are laid out: her age, her overweight awkwardness. These details are necessary in setting the character. They affect her frame of mind. They affect her loneliness.As for Coupland’s work-in-progress, it will be a sequel to Microserfs entitled jPod. Allusions to the ubiquitous iPod aside, jPod is actually the name of a corner of an office housing 6 employees whose last names begin with a J. Coupland says that this novel will essentially be about “corporate intrusion into private memory.” Heady stuff. But the passage he read came off a bit light-weight and a bit forced. It was a scene in which the 6 employees discuss McDonald’s, and in particular Ronald McDonald, and in particular Ronald McDonald’s sex-life. They decide that they should each compose and read to the group a “love letter” to Ronald. Then we hear the letters, and they were amusing to a point, and I suppose they do reveal a bit about the individual characters, and the passage seemed to go off well with the audience. But the whole thing came off a bit jokey. And once the whole unusual premise was set, even a bit obvious.His random tangents, however, were truly memorable, as much for their delivery as for their content. How, for instance he suffers from what he calls “executive dysfunction” rendering him inexplicably yet completely incapable of performing such simple tasks as opening an envelope. Until, that is, a doctor-friend suggested doing these impossible tasks at half-speed. Which apparently works. And also how he and his 78-year old father, with whom he has nothing in common, have recently and surprisingly bonded over their mutual affinity for a reality show called The Swan.Whether or not I pick up the new or the next Douglas Coupland book remains a bit of a question mark. What is certain is that if he does another reading in town, codeine or no codeine, I’ll be there. And I’ll be the one listening intently for the random tangents.
I’ve never had a place bore as deeply into my consciousness as Flannery O’Connor’s home, Andalusia. It is a five-hundred acre dairy farm (now a museum) just outside of Milledgeville, Georgia. When I showed up there this summer, it was after a seven-year absence. I had been invited to the farm to read from my novel, A Good Hard Look, which features Flannery O’Connor as a character.
My first visit was in 2004. Flannery had just appeared in the novel; I kept telling myself that she might not stick around, that the crazy idea of dropping a Southern literary icon into my work was just a reckless phase I was going through. On the off chance that Flannery wouldn’t leave, I traveled to Georgia to do research. I’m from New Jersey, and had spent very little time in the South; there was no way I could write about Flannery O’Connor without seeing where she lived. My instinct on that visit was to keep my mouth shut and my eyes open. I walked all over her farm, and the tired, yet lovely, town. I sought out no scholars or relatives; I didn’t introduce myself to anyone. I passed myself off, easily and truthfully, as just another fan making a pilgrimage to the great author’s home.
My visit lasted thirty-six hours, and then I spent the next seven years back in New York City writing and re-writing across Andalusia’s terrain. The white farmhouse, the enclosed porch, the rocking chairs, the arrogant peacocks, the water tower in the distance—this became my alternate universe, a reality often more real than the urban neighborhood I lived in. My dreams frequently took place at Andalusia. Flannery glared and stamped her metal crutches against the porch floorboards; the cries of peacocks rattled my windowpanes. My conversations with my husband covered the same ground; we ended up discussing Flannery as if she were someone we actually knew, and Andalusia as a place we were familiar with. When I finished the novel—thankfully and painfully and finally—the idea of seeing Andalusia again, in person, meant something completely different to me than it had the first time.
In 2004, I had been nervous and diffident; in 2011 I was nervous and reverent. The first time, Flannery had been a stranger; now she had somehow become one of the main figures in my life. She was the reason why A Good Hard Look had taken seven years to write—it had taken that long to do her justice. I’d struggled to make my fictional Flannery believable, to make sure she rang true. My great fear was that my novel would insult the writer, and the Southern town she’d lived in. Eventually, after much effort, I managed to convince myself that I hadn’t. But that conviction had occurred while alone with my book in my New York City apartment; the novel was now published, and I was in the South. My first event had taken place the night before in Atlanta. I had read to and answered questions from a hundred Flannery fans, and I’d been deeply relieved to find the crowd appreciative and enthusiastic. Tonight’s event was the real test, though. I was at Flannery’s home, in a somewhat removed part of the state; I would be meeting people who had known Flannery personally. Men and women who were not only Flannery’s fans, but her intimates. This was the group best able to judge whether my Flannery was, in fact, up to snuff.
I showed up at the farm with shaking hands. I wore a blue dress I had carefully selected for its 1960s style. I couldn’t stop smiling, and I feared that I would cry (though I am generally not a crier). I was also sweating. It was July, and the South was in the middle of a heat wave. It was one hundred and six degrees in Milledgeville, Georgia at sunset. The executive director of Andalusia, a nice man named Craig, met me on the lawn. I had a hard time listening to his words—the farmhouse was right behind him, and there were peacocks in a large pen to my left and my heart was beating hard in my chest—but he had two key pieces of news to impart. (1) The farmhouse, where I would be doing my reading, did NOT have air conditioning, and (2) Flannery’s ninety-two-year-old cousin, Louise Florencourt, who was the executrix of Flannery’s estate, would be in attendance. He wanted to make me aware of this, he explained, because Ms. Florencourt had been a Harvard-educated lawyer, and she was known to be confrontational, even a tad cantankerous, on the subject of Flannery. In fact, her love of debate had only been exacerbated by her encroaching senility. Anything, he indicated—with admirable delicacy and politeness—was possible from this woman.
“Oh,” I said, while wondering if it was possible for one’s ears to sweat. I could have sworn that my ears had begun to sweat.
“I’ll give you a few moments to gather yourself before the event begins,” Craig said, and then, again with great delicacy, he disappeared into the house.
I stood still, and tried to regulate the crazy pinball that was ricocheting around my chest. I didn’t feel discouraged—perhaps I should have—but I didn’t. Scared silly, yes, but not discouraged. I told myself that being at Andalusia was worth being yelled at by a tempestuous elderly woman. I stared at the white farmhouse, and tried to channel some of Flannery’s famous nerve. I knew the writer would have savored this kind of evening; she would have responded to any critic with a witty remark and a small, amused smile. I’m not Flannery O’Connor, though, and the house and grounds stared back at me blankly; no nerve was on offer.
My attention was caught by a sudden movement to my left. A rattling noise filled the air. The peacock stood in the center of his pen, shaking his long, thin tail. When the shaking concluded, he hurled his feathers upwards. This violent motion created, all at once, a sweeping display of moons and eyes and cerulean blues and bright greens. The fan was easily four feet across, and dazzling. The peacock pointed the display at me in silence, his head averted. Only when he thought I’d admired him long enough, did his sharp eyes deign to meet mine. In the hundred-degree heat, I was swept with chills. For one singular moment, I could feel Flannery’s presence. She stood beside me on the lawn, and together we stared down her wondrous, obnoxious birds.
Inside, the small dining room was filling with an audience that could exist nowhere else. In attendance were three distinct groups: relatives of Flannery, neighbors of Flannery and local scholars of Flannery. The median age was, if I had to hazard a guess, seventy. I was introduced by the head of the English Department from the Georgia State College in Milledgeville. The gentleman was a noted Flannery scholar and so I listened at first with interest, and then increasing confusion, to his talk. He was discussing my novel and Flannery’s role in the book, but it was difficult to put a finger on his actual thesis. He’s definitely not praising the novel… he’s hedging, maybe? Surely not condemning? Oh wait, that was a barb. I think it was a barb. I can’t be sure… it’s too hot in here to be sure. Oh wait, he’s done. What a weird note to end on…
From the podium, the ninety-two-year old cousin was easy to spot. She sat in a large armchair in the back corner of the room. A shiny wooden cane rested against her leg. She wore a white bun; she looked regal and imposing. She was—it became immediately clear—glaring at me. She glared the entire time I spoke: during my introduction, when I tried to explain how this girl from New Jersey came to write Flannery into a novel; during my reading, which I decided to cut short due to the extreme heat. (I could see beads of sweat on peoples’ foreheads, and did I mention the median age? I feared that someone might pass out; I could imagine an ambulance arriving, and the local headline blaring, “BOOK READING SO BORING THAT PEOPLE LOSE CONSCIOUSNESS”.) Nothing, however—not the temperature nor my nervous blathering nor the excerpt from my novel—had any impact on Louise Florencourt’s glare. Her gaze was so fixed she appeared not to blink.
Reading from my novel was such a heady experience I forgot about Louise for a few minutes. The scene I had chosen was set at Andalusia, and showed the beginning of Flannery’s strange friendship with New York transplant Melvin Whiteson. The characters spoke on the porch that was only a few feet away from where I stood, and peacocks roamed the lawn that I could see out the window. It felt strange and almost miraculous to read my work in the home of one of the main characters—how many writers have that opportunity? When I finished, I took a deep breath before asking the audience if there were any questions. I was careful not to look anywhere near the lady in the back corner.
A man in the front raised his hand, announced that he had lived in Milledgeville his entire life and that I had made an error in the second chapter by suggesting that the town had no movie theatre in 1962. He nodded solemnly, to give his statement emphasis. “We’ve always had a movie theatre here.” I, of course, apologized.
Another elderly woman, also with cane, told me that I should have read her book while I was researching my own. She was Flannery’s neighbor, and she had written an entire chapter about the author. I said I was sorry I hadn’t come across it, and that I’d love to read it. The woman promptly handed me a bright yellow book and said, “My address is on the inside back cover—you can send a check for sixteen dollars to that address. That’s how much it costs.” I nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”
Craig, in the back of the room, shook his head ruefully. He told me later that he’d worried this lady was going to pull something like this; she was known to grab the microphone at public events in Milledgeville in order to push her self-published book on people.
Next, the history professor from the local college told me that he had figured out who, in Milledgeville, every character in the book was based on. I found this information—and the details he provided—both amusing and gratifying. The only characters I had based on anyone real were Flannery and her mother, so I chose to take this as some kind of compliment.
My final interlocutor was the youngest person in the room, a black-haired, clean-cut man of perhaps thirty. I’d been wondering what he was doing there; in a room full of characters, he didn’t fit. It turned out he had been sent down from Atlanta by his very wealthy, very Catholic boss to see if my book was worth optioning for a movie. His employer was slowly buying up Flannery’s short stories in order to put them on the screen; he saw this project as a kind of Catholic philanthropy, rather than a money-making venture. The young man looked me over, with what appeared to me to be skepticism, while we talked.
At some point, without my noticing, Louise Florencourt abandoned her glare and her corner seat. She left the farm without saying a word to me. Craig posited that it was because she hadn’t read my novel, so didn’t feel she had the necessary facts for an effective verbal attack. I was enormously relieved; if she had attacked me, the argument would have been one-sided. I would have let her have her say without interruption. Louise had, after all, grown up with Flannery; they were family. She felt an understandable ownership of the great writer, and the disapproval she had pointed in my direction made sense. I’d fictionally usurped someone she knew, and loved. If I’d written a bad biography of Flannery, Louise Florencourt could have—and probably would have—sued me. But a novel is not biography; it is mere make-believe, a piece of whimsy, an imaginative fugue, and therefore untouchable. I had pulled Flannery out through a trap door Louise didn’t have access too, and might even doubt existed. A novel must represent the ultimate frustration and insult to someone like Ms. Florencourt, who had made her living fighting facts with facts. I had not only taken her cousin away, I had taken her tools as well.
It was my turn to feel untouchable as I left that house for the second, and perhaps the last, time. The peacock was tucked in the shadows now, his tail matted down, his eyes looking away. The night was steamy, the crickets and birds clattered in the trees over my head. I had written onto this landscape the clatter of typewriter keys and the screams of fowl, the gunning of car engines and the spill of blood. I had written about a woman who lived here, and lived fiercely, in the face of certain death. I had lived here with her, with my pages and words, for many years. The truths I had tried to capture in my book, and the truths Flannery had nailed in hers, swirled around me in the noisy darkness.
The event was over and I was alone, but my hands continued to shake at my sides. I was smiling, too; I may have even laughed out loud. I found myself thinking that the night had been a great success. It had been weird and crazy and stressful, yes, but this was Flannery O’Connor’s house, and as such it was only proper that the weird and crazy should rise to the surface. The worst thing that could have happened was for the evening to be ordinary. “Ordinary” was an insult to Flannery O’Connor. “Ordinary” had no life in it, no electrical charge, and therefore had no place here.
Image courtesy the author