Instead of classes this week we had “conferences” in my Studies in the Essay class. I showed up for my conference expecting to get a lecture that goes to the tune of “speak up in class or you’re fired.” There are many reasons for my silence in class, paramount among them being that it’s early in the morning for me (9:30) and I’m not always completely caught up on the readings. Anyway, things were running behind because it sounded like the girl in front of me was having some kind of minor breakdown about her own class participation — crying, shuddery voice, all of that — and so I sat in the hallway and listened to the killers and read something. Anyway, I finally got called in and the professor and I ended up having a wonderful discussion about how much I’m enjoying T.S. Eliot — really, “Tradition and the Individual Talent” captured something for me that I’ve never seen described anywhere else before, the state in which my best writing happens. It’s beautiful and it’s really feeding into helping me bring to my consciousness something I’ve got on the tip of my mental tongue about detachment from the stories I write. He seemed so relieved to find out that I’ve been paying attention that he kept saying, over and over, “This is good, this is really good.” So, what I’ve learned is, I need to talk more in class and I need to work on my facial expressions so that I don’t appear to be disinterested when I’m actually just concentrating.
Then, brief detour of crazy disorganization where I thought I’d left my wallet at Steak ‘n’ Shake, and on to work. I had more to do today, and will have enough to fill my time tomorrow, which is good. Next, AmDram class, where I spoke up twice and have apparently bonded with the girls who sit in my corner — girls who I was complaining about very recently, particularly the girl who today decided to REBRAID HER HAIR in the middle of class. What? When did that become OK? Anyway, we discussed this play we were all supposed to see over the weekend, a play which I attended for only the first Act because it was shudderingly horrible. “You Can’t Take It With You,” only the director decided to “update” it by including “contemporary” characters, making the Essie/Ed couple into an interracial gay couple, Jessie and Ed, and switching the genders and races and ages of other parts. I like to think I’m not easily offended, and I can accept stereotypical depictions in some art when there’s a reason, but this — this was beyond manageable. The stereotyping was so empty, so pointless, that I was actually angry at the end of the first act, and decided to leave. The worst part of it is that the director, I think, really felt that her choices made the play richer instead of more shallow and noisier. I want to say, You can’t just put a gay character in your play and then say, “Look, I’ve included a contemporary commentary on sexual orientation!” You have to actually… comment. I look forward to saying that in class, should we continue our discussion on Tuesday.
This evening we attended an interesting panel discussion at the Lawrence library with Harriet Lerner, NYT best-selling author of books like The Dance of Anger, Nancy Pickard, who’s written about 12 mystery novels and a book called Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path, and Joe Lynne Worley, Lerner’s manager and a literary agent. All three had very interesting presentations, and I enjoyed hearing the “from the agent’s perspective” bit that Worley offered. She was, wow, very cynical about the lit business right now — in fact, all three were. All-in-all, a good evening.