Writing in Public: Reading

I received a number of emails over the past week (something to the tune of… ten) advertising a conference in honor of the owner of our local indy bookstore, Shaman Drum. I didn’t pay much attention to the emails until I started receiving them via the anthropology listserv, and from one of the faculty who’s work I really admire, no less. And then I started receiving them on the Natural Resources and Environment listserv. Anything that gets sent over both program listservs generally warrants further investigation (because it implies that there is some sort of thematic overlap, which I am constantly searching for these days and which seems to be quite elusive most of the time).

I looked up the author who was giving the opening reading for the conference (and who, in all sheepishness, I had never heard of before). Gary Snyder: I was impressed. It seems that I really should be reading his stuff. With titles like “The Practice of the Wild” and “A Place in Space: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Watersheds,” it seems like he might be tackling some themes that would interest me. And Wikipedia claims that he dropped out of the anthropology graduate program at Indiana University after just one semester. Interesting.

So I went.

How was it? What was it like? … There were a lot of English students there.

How could I tell?

I swear, each graduate program has a certain Vibe to it (no, not the car). English students are a lot like anthropology students… except much hipper, a bit more relaxed, and Marxist without really knowing why. They manage to write much better accounts of fake fieldwork than anthropologists tend to write about real fieldwork. Perhaps we could learn from each other (ie: We’ll teach them why, and they can teach us how to write. Deal?). I feel this comic illustrates the English-Anthro divide* quite nicely (see how I’m resorting to visual aids here? words fail me.).

I also saw four anthropologists.

The reading itself was fine. The ‘opening act’ was fairly terrible, though. The author had the sort of reading style that irked me– her normal speaking voice was fine, but she read with a very affected tone. Her inflections and rhythm had the effect of putting the guy sitting next to me to sleep. He snored.

When he wasn’t asleep, he muttered to himself, so maybe it was just him.

Snyder’s introduction was much better– the speaker had a very dry sense of humor, and a solid stage presence. Snyder himself read nicely, and I enjoyed his poems. He has quite a dark sense of humor! I was entertained for a bit (though I had to sneak out early to catch the last bus home) and definitely motivated to check out some of his publications.  I’d like to read some of his prose, where he elaborates his environmental theories.

I think the venue was simply not conducive to a book/ poetry reading. They used an 800-person lecture hall in the graduate building. It’s pretty, and has comfortable seating, but the acoustics and lighting are horrible! It’s fine for film screenings, and less-personal speeches to a larger audience (especially when they dim the house lights), but for a reading it felt very awkward.

All of that said, however, I’m glad I went– I will definitely have to check out some of Snyder’s other work. And maybe even the other author’s too– her story was good, in spite of her presentation.

*Please note, I like the Humanities. I started out in a major called “Arts and Ideas in the Humanities.” Really. I just suck at literary analysis and clearly, as you can see from this blog, am incapable of writing coherent sentences, much less intelligent ones. And I aknowledge that outsiders (namely, my family members) find Anthropology to be equally as useless as the anthropology character finds Medieval Scandinavian Cultural Philosophy to be. But that comic is soooo true. And therefore hilarious.


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