I've read a couple of times this fall, and they both felt pretty good. I was down in South Dakota, returning to the school where I got my last degree, and it was a great time, meeting and talking to so many bright and committed writers, including the director of creative writing there, Lee Ann Roripaugh. (Of course I was not meeting her; Lee was one of the main people I learned from while I was getting my degree, and she turned me on to many great writers and also helped me put together my first collection of poetry. And just before I went down there, I received her latest book, which I had preordered what seemed like months before. The book is called Dandarians, and I was lucky enough to read much of it prior to its publication. What amazes me about Lee is the density of her work, and how the syntactic complexity and combination of diction from such a variety of registers always seems effortless--though that's probably the wrong word.) I read with Geoff Schmidt and got to know a little bit about him from dinners and drinks and so on, and his craft talk, which, as these things sometimes work, will help me a bit on my next novel, where I will use his geo-narrative ideas (or have one character use them . . . ) Then when I got home I was able to read Geoff's book of short fiction, Out of Time, which won the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction. There are so many things to admire in that book, but the first story especially really sticks with me: "Man in Gorilla Suit by Midnight." It's one of those great stories where the external oddities entertain and amuse, and that amusement leaves a kind of space at the end where the reader is suddenly more open to the universal human relations at the heart of the story.
I came home with a few new writers to check out, including Brian Evenson. whose collection the Wavering Knife I am reading right now, and Laird Hunt, whose novel the Exquisite, I got in the mail last week. There is too little time to read right now, especially with all the new books, which seem to create an extra pressure so I skip from book to book without actually reading. Then I read with Karen Hoffman as part of the UBC Okanagan reading series and was especially grateful for the former students who came out in Kelowna. It seemed like a really great crowd, great energy. One of the highlights was meeting up with my former student Ryan the night before, and hearing about the work he's doing now and how his life is going. It reminds me, and I need reminding sometimes, that life is more than just reading and writing (though it sometimes isn't, of course) and feel a little less guilty about my lack of production while I am on leave with my second daughter.
Anyway, this all brings me to my next reading: Thursday, November 20th, at 7 pm. I am reading at the Bohemian Cafe in downtown Kelowna, with a friend of mine, John Lent. He's a poet, novelist, scholar, and singer-songwriter. It's a pretty humbling thing to think of all that has happened to me in the last 10 years, when I quit my job as a construction surveyor and went down to South Dakota to get my PhD, then was hired by Okanagan College and met John Lent, who has been instrumental in my recent development (who knows how much of this is visible in the work itself, but it's obvious to me; the conversations with John and with my colleague Jake about the writing that matters to them, and the writing that matters little, sustains me emotionally, that's for sure, but intellectually it is amazing to always be shown there is more to learn).
All this to say it will be a great pleasure to read with John and to hear him speak again about writing, and (I hope) hear from the work he is at now, which we have often spoke of, but which I have yet to read or to hear.