Monday, November 16, 2009

A literary soiree?

At times I know that I have moved to a foreign country -- today is one of them. Part of the foreign country is this earliest part of New England and part of the foreign country is the land of the older persons. We're not in NYC any more, Toto. It doesn't look like Oz, but it sure isn't NYC. I'm befuddled and bemused and somewhat be-saddened.

The so called "literary soiree" of the Adult Lifelong Learning Center of the community college where I am taking classes was this afternoon. An hour after I sat through a very old film of Rigoletto in the opera course. The man introducing the opera read disjointed notes, he gets and E for effort and a D- for delivery. The ancient DVD had a youthful Pavarotti as the Duke in magnificent voice and acting charmingly. A physically unattractive Rigoletto was a fine actor with many emotions on his doughy face that were deeply touching. Gilda was a Russian with a smallish voice and incredibly tiny teeth, as if she had never lost her baby teeth, very bothersome. Meanwhile the Sparafucila was given a set of [I hope] false teeth [or caps] that were grossly deformed, indicative of his evil livelihood. Shot on location in Mantua, the final scene on the river at dawn was very beautiful. What an emotional ride that experience was! And what incredible dullness in the audience! Said the woman next to me, "A very lively story." Another was very confused to discover on the DVD case that the baritone who sang Rigoletto also sang Monterone -- although the credits clearly said it was shot at one time and the music added at another. There's no point in trying to talk to anyone in that class.

So I went to the so-called literary soiree in an emotional muddle because Verdi always ties my emotions in knots and I had seen a magnificent Rigoletto production last spring shot live in Bologna with a Rigoletto who was magnificent -- not handsome, but grand. And not a soul with whom to share and compare.

The soiree certainly did not deserve such a hoity-toity French word. Six authors of self-published books were lined up before rows of folding chairs. There was no attempt at getting to know anyone. Only two readers had a clue how to use the microphone and the woman doing the introductions was even worse, holding the mic well away from her mouth so it served no purpose at all. Only one reading was lively, as I knew it would be by that particular member of the writing class I'm taking. The others, including a poet, mumbled distant from the mike in a monotone. Three readings were of children's books. These are, of course, mostly grandparent age people but sheesh! "Literary soiree?"

I understand self-publishing if you want to share your stuff with a certain limited audience and you understand this is your purpose but these people all seemed to think their work would have a wider audience. One book deserves a wider audience but as the woman said, she sent query letters to 100 publishers none of whom rejected the book because they didn't even ask to see it. That's an attitude other writers might take out of ego-defense. It is worthwhile book but as she said, it's currently available from the trunk of her car.

I am having culture shock where 5 of 6 people are apparently satisfied with -- and proud of -- their self-published efforts. I'm used to people with ambitions and at least some sense of how they compare with the greater world. I feel no greater world exists beyond the Sagamore Bridge which connects mainland Massachusetts with the Cape. Yet, a handful of excellent writers do live here at least part time. But the don't associate with the likes of these even if they are in the proper age bracket.

[the photo above is a stone fence, of Rbt. Frost-ly vintage, once marking fields, now all but lost among a regrown forest. Somehow it seems an apt metaphor]. In a nutshell, I do not wish to vanish among regrown forests.

1 comment:

Kass said...

How disappointing. On all counts. I feel your frustration. Ever thought of starting your own '' group? Wish I could have been there to discuss Verdi with you. I'm very opinionated. - a very well-written review, though.