Pages

10.18.2009

Anthony Doerr is Normal

I knew I wanted to be writer in the 11th grade when my creative writing teacher made us read James Joyce and Dylan Thomas (she had a thing for Irish men) and said, "See, you could be a drunk and write fiction and one day—when you die—people will remember how horrible a person you were, but it didn't matter because you were drunk and you could write." She was right, of course. Sylvia Plath stuck her head in an oven. Poe died a very sad man. Virginia Woolf put rocks in her pockets and since then none of us ever heard from her again.

A little crazy myself, I thought writing was a natural path. I imagine myself crying on the streets of New York and then winning a Pulitzer and then crying some more. Life would be wonderful! I could be my horrible self and still be remembered just for stringing words together.

Imagine my horror when I sat in a small auditorium styled room, lights dimmed, and then there was the hushed quiet when an author—a real live one—walked up stage.

Anthony Doerr is bald. Or nearly bald. Or perhaps he just looks that way in the dim lighting. Imagine the absolute disappointment: when he smiled. He smiled. He said thanks and said that he needed to hurry up and that due to time constraints, he could only read part of his 70-page story published in the latest McSweeneys, that pretentious literary magazine published in hardcover and shelved next to the anthologies at Barnes and Noble (but then again everyone becomes pretentious when they publish Joyce Carol Oates, charge $24 per issue, and get an ISBN, who am I to judge?).

He read, his arms moving not wildly, but moving nonetheless. They moved, fingers partly pointed inwards, shaking forward to emphasize some words while flowing through other. His wrists rolled as he tried to explain his reasoning about how memory works, playfully interrupting the story, and then he continued. But then stopped because he needed water.

He read a couple of sections about a girl and her memory, but when he left the stage I realized that I just forgot what I just heard. I always hated audiobooks because I'm the reader who would rewind constantly, not to poetically enjoy the words, but because I'm not a good listener despite my silence, despite my face (I am told that I mime a whole lot).  His voice—the sound of his vocal chords moving and shaking the air around it—got in the way of the story that was probably great. I read his story "The Caretaker," and thought it was great—no Raymond Carver, but still great—and I bought the book because it was there and I get discounts at the place where I work. But he came and his vocal chords got in the way. I was disappointed. He laughed and he talked casually and he needed to be picked up at the hotel by a graduate student.

I could imagine Poe laughing it up with Plath and Woolf at the local bar, talking about his latest research for a story; then sipping his coffee, he would say "I'll see you tomorrow," and go back to his place and update his Facebook and I'd friend him just to say that I was so disappointed that he was just mortal, just like me, just like everyone.

No comments:

Post a Comment