Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bats and birds of America

Because there is so little going on in the advertising scene in Lebanon, I decided to go back to something that happened to me - almost day for day - in 2006. I was attending the Tin House Magazine litterary workshop, and on the first night Lorrie Moore was reading. Imagine the scene happening in Reed College in Portland - Oregon, the open air auditorium was packed to capacity with the audience facing Moore as trees stood behind her overlooking the pond. For a July night in a state with unpredictable weather, the air was mild with a small chill. I have to admit that prior to that prior to that night, I had never heard of Moore. She read a short story of hers, The Juniper Tree, which was published in The New Yorker in January 2005. Her gripping voice was haunting, her delivery crystal clear, and when she got to the part where she had to sing part of the National Anthem, the audience held its breath in order not to interfere with the majestic voice to which it was being treated. That night, as veteran journalist and editor at large of Tin House Elissa Schappell was struggling to interview Moore (One could only blame it on Shappell being star struck), one of the anticipated questions was: "Where do you get your inspiration from?"... Moore, envelopped in that neon halo that was being projected from the auditorium's lighting which was basking everything in an unrealistic hue simply looked up the trees from her deck chair and said: "Oh... There are bats here tonight!" By not answering the question directly, and implying such an oblique answer which in itself was full of inspiration, Moore delivered an unforgettable answer.... Moore's reading that night made the whole workshop worthwhile. Pity the whole trip went down the drain as I got stuck there for two months due to the July 2006 war. Moore's "Birds of America" of which I bought a copy later remains one of my favorite books with "Agnes of Iowa" and the majestic "People Like That Are the Only People Here" remains one of the most moving testimonials of writing about hospitals and illnesses.
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