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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Bookish Ends

      Yesterday I attended the annual NH Writer's Project conference which is always an interesting mix of meeting new people and seeing people I rarely run into. Of everything I did over the course of the day I was most struck by the odd difference between the first speaker of the day, key note author Andre Dubus, and the last speaker I heard, Pulitzer prize winner Paul Harding.
      I have heard Dubus speak before and always find him crush worthy. Not a lot of guys can get away with audience scolding (regarding our crack pipes), swear lobbing, and talking about Faulkner and skid marked underwear. He does. I have some attention deficit issues and staying focused in lectures can be a serious challenge for me. I have no real coping mechanism for this deficit of mine, and simply move on to a variety of other more compelling activities like making a grocery list, if a speaker can't keep my attention. Mr. Dubus nailed the hat trick of taming my lame brain; making me think, laugh, and jot down something I wanted to carry away with me forever. As with most crushes, much of it is born of similarity. Like me, Dubus was strongly influenced by the time and place of an edgy middle class New England mill town upbringing, and I get him.
     Please don't think I'm dissing Mr. Harding now in comparison. I'm not. I think he's great, but I couldn't have a crush on him. I would be too tired. From trying to keep up with his brain. Which in stark contrast to having attention deficits, seems to be on hyper-drive at every minute and can go in many directions at one time. Listening to him reminds me of a time in the late seventies when I may (or may not) have ingested something hallucinogenic, which may (or may not) have resulted in the world becoming a metaphysical magic kingdom. The whole world. Even tree bark. He can equate plot with Newtonian physics and mechanical drawing. Harding was strongly influenced by the lofty New England transcendentalists, who, truth be told, I don't always get. But he scored a hat trick with me too. We agree on his basic philosophy, "I have faith in art," and apparently, we are both attracted to tree bark.
     I'll leave you with the Yeats poem Harding based his talk on, as it is one of my favorites, and it certainly is a lovelier image to leave you with than soiled underwear hanging in a tree.

     From Ode on a Grecian Urn 1819

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all 
        Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

1 comment:

  1. Something permanent and fragrant in tree bark. Happy hallucinations. Or at least deep focus on your novel. Hope all's well.


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