SWC: 2

I am going to type without thinking/revising:

1) Today started a little late. I slept in, woke up around 10ish and finished my review. Then Jim Scott and I went to the Tim O'Brien lecture. He talked about verisimilitude versus imagination. I think this had to do with 'believability' for me. O'Brien said that when a reader complains in workshop about 'not believing in a character' or some such nonsense, that reader is just avoiding the bigger problem: the story lacks imagination. I don't think discussions of a story's 'believability' are helpful (to return to a point I have made before), so I agree with O'Brien. Discussions of believability often replace tougher discussions: it's easier to tell someone that you don't believe something, that you want to smell, taste, touch, see a stinkbug/banana/fur coat/old lady, than it is to tell someone that the story they have written lacks imagination. Discussions of believability arise because a workshop group has trouble figuring out how best to discuss imagination. Imagination is not something you can workshop. You cannot revise imagination. Imagination just happens. An unbelievable story is a poorly imagined story. I do not want to read believable stories. I want to read stories that fuck me up. If I want to read something I can believe, I will read a newspaper article (maybe) or a grocery list. I can believe in a grocery list. I know that I must get milk and tortillas and peanut butter. I believe that.

2) This is a chat I had with Blake Butler earlier today. I was trying to explain what I thought about Jill McCorkle's reading last night:

me: ah
i mean it was a sad story
but i couldnt tell if i felt sentimental sad
or existential sad?
Blake: right
me: i have no idea what i am talking about
i felt sad
because i felt sad about my parents
or 'family'
which struck me as irrational to think that
like i was 'relating' to the story
in that way
Blake: hm
i do that too i think
me: like
it is this trick 
of putting you in the character's shoes
it doesnt seem to be true sympathy?
or whatever
but like
i dunno
i am still worrying about it
Blake: example
me: i dunno
i am still thinking about it
i feel different when i read a schutt story versus a nell freudenberger story
like, ok, i might worry about a nell character or think how i would feel if thatsituation happened to me
it is not a suprise or new feeling
it is not odd and fucked up and languaged
it is feeling the same old feelings that iw ould feel anyhow
Blake: situational empathy
me: but in a schutt story
Blake: vs 'epiphianic' by texture
me: yes
i think that is what im thinking of
in a schutt story
i feel more at a loss
in a good way
Blake: yes
me: like i feel like i can read the language and puzzle over it
Blake: i was talking about this with my girlfriend
me: and still feel totally fucked by the story
Blake: a story that i read and think 'i could not have written this' is more likely to hit me and make me think than a story i identify with but could understand how it was written
sharper bullets
me: yes

I think I have 'figured things out' today. I feel good about today and about writing and about drinking. There has been much drinking at this conference.

3) After the O'Brien lecture, we went to lunch. Lunch was good. I zoned out. People at my table talked a lot and I did not want to talk to anyone, so I did not talk to anyone. I felt happy and very calm to sit there and eat my lunch and not have to talk to someone and ask them where they were from or talk about writing or whatever. I just listened to people. Many people here know much more than I do, can name names and talk about things better than I can, so I just sit and listen and learn things. That has been very good to learn things. After lunch, we had a bit of free time this afternoon. Jim and I walked into Sewanee. Sewanee has two stoplights. They are 'fake' stoplights. They don't really do anything but flash yellow and red, sooooo, yeah. Stoplights.

4) Romulus Linney read a play during the afternoon reading. I enjoyed the play. In it, a man describes the sensation of getting a blowjob from a dog. Soooooo.

5) Dave Madden is in my workshop. He is awesome. He is co-editor of this new journalish type thing, The Cupboard. He needs subscribers. They have one subscriber right now, Blake Butler, so they need more. The first issue features short short texts by Jesse Ball. Buy it. Support it. It looks very cool.

6) Dinner then Mary Jo Salter reading.

7) (namedrop alert?) Me, Jim, Josh Weil, Mike Rosovsky, and Margot Rabb walked down to Shenanigans, the local bar here, afterwards. We got pitchers and interacted with local people. We interacted with some Sewanee students, recent grads, who were attending the conference on scholarship. They said good things about the school and one guy said we should buy Wild Turkey and go hiking at night to drink at some swimming hole? Okay? The bar seems structurally unstable; the building noticeably leans to the right as you face it. Weird.

8) French House for more drinks. Had to pay up $30 dollars to be able to get drinks for the rest of the time here. Didn't stay too long. Nothing else, I guess, or at least that I can remember. Boring literary shit on the porch. Really boring actually. Discussion of somehow getting exciting things going: sex on lawn?

I feel mean right now. I feel skeptical. I told myself before going here to be skeptical of people, but instead it has made me think some mean thoughts. There are some crazy people here.

There are also really cool people here.

I am nervous. Apparently, I am now going to be workshopped tomorrow. John Casey and Christine Schutt and my class will be discussing my work. I will probably feel less mean tomorrow, more meek, etc. Maybe defeated. We'll see. Hard asses are all over the place here.