Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Most Literate City in America, Part 1

Day 1 in Minneapolis:

I avoided the dread Nor'easter with an afternoon flight and a hotel stay near the airport. The flight itself is blissfully uneventful and we actually arrive a half hour early. I spend the flight reading, listening to music by Echo and the Bunnymen, the Gathering, and the Detroit Cobras. I sketch out not one, not two, but FIVE short story ideas featuring my pals from Generation Dead. I also play Klondike, which is the iPod version of solitaire. I notice that I play Klondike instead of being nervous. I play Klondike often lately.

For dinner, I eat a grilled Stiltoncheese sandwich at a place called Brits Pub after trying to take a walk but quitting after two blocks. Some of my companions on this trip are vegetarians and I'm trying to get into the spirit of things. A little boy at the next table informs me that this is the coldest day of the year in Minneapolis, perhaps catching inspiration upon seeing my elephantine red ears. There is a large bottle cap-shaped emblem on the wall with a bantam rooster and the words "Take Courage" beneath. The cheese sandwich and pub fries are quite good.

No events for Danny today, but I am fortunate enough to attend a reading/seminar at Hamline University given by the vivacious and delightful E. Lockhart who I mentioned in an earlier post. I'll admit, I find some readings painful, but Emily (E. is a secret code name. Ssssshhhhh!)has such charm and stage presence I'm riveted the entire hour, in which E. reads from a selection of her many works. Beyond her obvious rapport with the crowd, a mixed bag of students, readers and people that Tim, our media guide, describes as "book junkies", what shines through the most to me is Emily's voice. Her narrative voice, and the voices of her characters, ring very clear and true to me.

I think voice is one of the most difficult things to capture and develeop when writing fiction, and, for this reader, anyhow, it is usually the element that pulls me in the most. Hearing Emily read from a number of different works, introducing the reader to a variety of characters, it is easy to hear that she has voice aplenty--and stories to match. Her forthcoming The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks may be the only title of hers I've yet read, but I plan to remedy that soon.

Watching Emily was as inspirational as it was entertaining, although when I try to picture myself doing the same sort of thing someday and what pops into my head is the pastry chef who would fall down the stairs on Sesame Street after announcing, loudly, that he has "eleven custard pies" or some similarly unweildy pile of confectionary.

Yes, I release that reference may date me. You'll see that I'll have even more reason to feel dated on day two of the adventure, but I'll Take Courage. The rooster demands it!!!!

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