Sunday, May 18, 2008

Reading Red


Went to something called LitFest in Kansas City yesterday. Tents were erected on a blocked-off street of the Plaza, tents filled with books and writers and readers. Yeah, that's the stuff.

But was it?

From the poetry stage, a red-faced man with a jumped-up Southern accent read his poems to a sparse crowd, so impressed with his own cleverness he could barely see around his ego to the page.

In the main tent, a red-haired woman described experiences that led to a best-selling memoir. Her manner of speaking left no doubt she did not write this or any other book herself. Later, Amazon reveals a credited co-author and bizarre reverberations from the living and the telling of these tales. Google reveals huge controversy wrapped in shiny marketing-department packaging, tied with the ribbon of a movie in the works.

And then, we come to the literary writers. Ah, yes. Red-eyed men and women who make words dance for their own pleasure, who seem to believe that impenetrable equals good. Their worst slams include the words "commercial" or "mainstream" or (God forbid) "popular." They hold panel discussions on "advancing beyond meta-language."

I just want to tell stories, stories that entertain people and maybe show them parts of themselves they don't usually see but recognize instantly. I want to write sentences that draw pictures, clear pictures that make sense. I want those sentences and those stories to be real and true and mine.

Today, that seems like a lot to ask.

6 comments:

holly said...

Hey, what's wrong with making words dance for your own pleasure? :)

I don't know what meta-language is, but we did have a 10-minute discussion on weather motherfucker is one word or two in class one thurday evening.

FYI- consensus was it depends on the context.

so there you go.

by the way, you tell a damn fine, entertaining, illuminating story.

Jerri said...

You're absolutely right, Holly. There's not a single thing wrong with making words dance for your own pleasure.

But when the pleasure comes from showing off how much smarter the writer is than most readers, it falls off the edge, for me. It's damn hard to communicate when you're looking down your nose.

And...it always depends on the context, doesn't it?

Deb said...

I love your last paragraph, and want those exact things. Sorry the festival was more a festival of egos than a festival of the magic of writing. But if it got you to that last paragraph, it wasn't a total waste of time. Love!

riversgrace said...

Isn't there such a gynormous difference between the literary machine and the real experience of articulating your muse so truly that you are touched and others are touched?

I just don't give a damn about the business of writing.

I just want the heart of it.

Let's stay in that boat, drink wine, and read Rumi.

Michelle O'Neil said...

so you want we should start our own publishing company?

: )

Stacy said...

I am all for the Jerri-Michelle O (sounds like something edible, a new jell-o flavor?) publishing company. No phonies accepted big egos rejected. nice slogan eh? you can use it:)