Sunday, October 19, 2008

in Sumerian, charmingly

The conference went off surprisingly well, and all declared it a success, though I'm suspicious of the number of conference organizers and panelists in the audience. I suppose that's how it goes for academic conferences, but in theatre you're in trouble if the cast is buying tickets. I'll have a video up soon of our panel.

First thing: Rick Kenney's poetry, which you should read. The first book's out of print, which is unfortunate, because it has this. But there are good ones in the new book, too, The One-Strand River; my favorite, "Epicycles", is like something Bradbury might have written if he'd been a much better writer.

In the course of preparing for my panel I read some of the panelists' work (once again, I do "academic" wrong; you're supposed to have read something about their work, I guess, and have a pocket full of brilliant and lyrical to sprinkle during introductions), and accidentally read the wrong book of Brian Falkner's: The Real Thing, a nifty YA novel about a Coke-formula heist and a New Zealand teen with a fantastic sense of -- well, all perceptions, but taste is most important here. International industrial espionage ensues. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and admired the way that he'd used science without ever getting sciencey. Food chemistry? Experimental setups? Just facts of life.

It turned out he was coming along to talk about The Tomorrow Code, which has gamma rays and computers and mutant viruses. Nothing wrong with that -- actually I think the book will make Brian's name in the US -- but I'd have been perfectly happy to talk about The Real Thing, just as I'd have been happy to talk about the use of things scientific in "In Spring". The use of science in both of them is conversational, is part of the mind of the person who wrote them, and I think this sort of thing gets lost in the rush to connect art and science.

The other thing that hit me in the course of meeting these writers -- only one of whom I'd met before -- was how large a subject "using science in literary arts" is. Even if you're talking about the sort of writing that stares straight at science, there's tremendous variety in the use. I'll post more about that after I get the video, since you'll be able to see how varied, even with only five writers, the flavors and intentions are, and how each of them is concrete about science. Five totally different animals, their work.

Rick said something, before the panel began, about wanting to be deep in the lineup so that he could choose poems that would work conversationally -- that would respond to the other panelists' work. I'll have to ask him why. I can see the panelish trouble with having "science pieces" so different from each other that they don't seem to talk to each other at all, but it also seems to me that this is fine, so long as the writers talk to each other.

Other new stuff: A review of Tania Hershman's short-story collection The White Road. The interview with Karl Iagnemma is coming soon.