By Phil LaMancusa
Raspberry, strawberry, Cadillac car….(we’re not as dumb as you think we do)
Tennessee Williams Literary Conference
The P.H.D.'s daughter got her wooden leg stolen by a bible salesman that she had tried to seduce.
Here I am again, friends and neighbors; flying in under the radar with a report on the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival slash Writers Conference slash Platform for anyone dumb enough to think they can yell 'Stella!?!?!' as good as Brando (in my opinion if Baldwin couldn't………..) March 20-25, 2002.
Last year, as a literary hopeful, my ‘Main Frame’ and I had scored press passes (hint, hint) and were determined to “be there” rather than “be el-seven”, if you catch my drift. I was curious as to what type of birds these would be; and, aside from bad hair, the absence of clothing style (for the most part, Honey, I don't mean you!) and an epidemic of comfortable footwear, they were much the same as you and I, that is, weird.
I didn't feel like much of a writer, while I was there…at all. I’m confused by the difference between illusion and allusion. I don't know the difference between ambivalence and ambiguity and, I guess like my Mama said when I asked her if I had halitosis (at age nine I had read an advertisement but wasn't sure what it was), as far as 'catharsis' and 'pathos' goes: "if you don't know what it is, you aint got it". I was wondering if what I had was what it takes to have been there at all.
I went to a whole bunch of panel discussions, in fact so many, that it was hard to tell where one let off and another began. A couple of them were yawners, but most were lively, and, mostly, I just tried to keep up with the discussions on things like: 'voices', 'revealing' characters, their development and their flaws, 'juice', 'languaging', (that one's not even in my BIG dictionary) 'perception', finding a gay friendly publisher, and what Willie Morris said to who (or whom) on the telephone late one night.
I also, to my dismay, found out that practically nobody makes a living from writing, it takes up all your time (one guy said it took him four years to write eighty two pages) and that if I keep using parenthesizes, I'll never amount to much at all.
I don't think I'll amount to much as a writer anyway because, I don't keep notes on cocktail napkins, my childhood illnesses weren't severe enough, and although my mother kicked my ass on a regular basis, I wouldn't consider her 'overbearing'. I can't even begin to guess where 'third person past tense' is, let alone write from that perspective. I'm also not at any kind of 'psychic intersection'; if anything, I'm just this guy, you know?
So what makes me think I can be a writer? The panels. I can do those panels. I mean, I didn't know most of those guys, so how do I know they wrote seven books? Because the moderator said so? Hmmmm. If I had one book that I could hold up and call my latest, and then, talk about my last book, or better yet, my first book….
Also, I can answer questions, I've got a 'whole lot of opinion' on a myriad of subjects and I can cut up and b.s. my way through just about any topic, with the best of them. Or so I'd like to think.
I attended panels on Southern Culture, Good and Evil, Wit and Wisdom, Hot Properties, Alternative Writing, The Muse stops Here, and others; and I kept saying to myself "I could have said that!" Once when a question was asked during the 'Bad Girls" panel, I almost raised my hand and yelled "pick ME!"
I can see myself sitting with 'quiet authenticity' after being introduced as a writer of 'complex fiction' with a 'clear sense of the absurd' saying: " that's a very good question, Rex; but as we all know, ' you don't have stories unless bad things happen' or as Flannery O'Conner put it: " The average reader is pleased to observe the stealing of a wooden leg".
Thank you, I'll be signing books in the lobby, and I don't care whose (or is that whoms?) they are.