Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hookums, Snookums and David Sedaris

This morning at The Gathering, Salman Rushdie and Gregory Maguire teamed up for an entertaining 90 minute conversation that careened from book tour war stories to playing yourself on film to useful advice for writers (for example, a wise writer knows that the time to stop editing your own work is when you've stopped making things better, and you're just making them different).

The two authors found common ground quickly as they talked about the shared experience of following David Sedaris on book tour. From there they moved on to a discussion of their mutual interest in The Wizard of Oz and it was determined that "grown-ups are not to be relied on." We also learned that if Captain Hook and The Wicked Witch of the West were to marry and have twins, they would be named Hookums and Snookums.

It sounds more surreal than it actually was (albeit not by much), but I think this gives you a taste of just how far ranging and fantastic the conversation was. Other touchpoints included:
  • "The Hollywood Ending" and how it nearly destroyed the film of The Wizard of Oz
  • The value, for authors (and, presumably, creative folk of all stripes), of using different creative media to rest the writing part of your brain while exercising other mental faculties
  • How to recreate your creative "comfort zone" while traveling. (Carry a few special items with you and consistently arrange them around your work space.)
  • The remarkable support Mr. Rushdie received during the years he was under Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa, as people around the world wore "I am Salman Rushdie" buttons. Mr. Rushdie joked that he was able to stay hidden by wearing one of these buttons himself. (Just as an aside, I think it's important to note that Mr. Rushdie was extraordinarily patient with us in revisiting this subject. Last night he said, "If it hadn't been not at all funny, it would have been quite funny," and then addressed the topic with great humor. Today, when asked whether he would ever write a memoir about the episode, he gave us more insight into his wholly understandable desire to move past these unpleasant memories, even as he acknowledged the effects the notoriety has had upon his career. I got the sense that he never wanted to be the "poster child" for freedom of speech, but that he won't back down from the responsibility that has been thrust upon him, simply because he believes in free speech's crucial importance to the wellbeing of human civilization. As for the memoir, he said that he can foresee writing it, but that he has yet to discover the right way to make the story artistically interesting to himself.)
Watching the combined creative power of these two authors was yet another high point in what has been a truly wonderful weekend for me, and, I think, for everyone at The Gathering. And we're not done yet -- tonight we get to hear Luong Ung, another lecture that I anticipate greatly.

Note: I've heard through the grapevine that many of you would like to see images from The Gathering. It's my understanding that the web site will soon be updated with this content, and when it is I'll provide a link along with one of my posts.

No comments:

Post a Comment