Thursday, September 20, 2012

I invoke the Ezra Pound Rule

Last night Mighty Reader and I went to the fabulous University Bookstore to hear Maria Semple and Jonathan Evison read from their latest novels and chat about writing. There was also beer, because it was a Jon Evison event, and I think there's some Federal law whereby every Jon Evison event features beer. The first time I heard Evison read (from All About Lulu), it was in a subterranean bar just off campus, and before he got up to read a chapter of his book, Jon bought a couple of pitchers of Guinness for the room because he wasn't standing up in front of a bunch of people whose glasses were empty.

Maria Semple is the author of the novel Where'd You Go, Bernadette? and she read from the first third of the book. Bernadette is the story of a woman who is so wracked with agoraphobia that she only leaves the house to pick up and drop off her daughter (Bernadette) at a private school. When Bernadette graduates from eighth grade with straight As, she cashes in on her parents' promise to "do whatever she wants as a reward," and what Bernadette wants is for the family to take a trip to Antarctica. Hijinks ensue, as you can imagine.

During the Q&A, one audience member remarked as how she'd read the novel but she didn't like the last third of the book, where the focus switches from the mother to the daughter, and she spoke as if she assumed that Semple naturally agreed that the last third of the book wasn't as good as the first two thirds. I was happy when Semple gave a spirited defense of her artistic choices, not apologizing at all for this reader's reaction to her novel. "I couldn't have written it any other way," Semple declared, and God bless her. I invoke the Ezra Pound Rule here.

Jonathan Evison read a couple of chapters from his new one, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving. Jon Evison is an excellent reader, which is a good reason to go see him if he comes to your town (he'll be in Denver for the next four days, at my beloved Tattered Cover, which is a great store if you don't already know that). Caregiving sounds excellent, and I'm still kicking myself for not buying my own copy (I always forget, darn it). Mighty Reader of course got hers autographed. When I buy my copy, I'll have to track Evison down on that island where he lives. I assume that if I bring enough beer, we'll be cool.

Because Jon Evison is cool. Or, if not cool, he's a damned nice guy. I see him about once a year, at readings around town, and he always remembers who Mighty Reader and I are, and he always remembers whatever I told him a year previous about my books and publishing status. I am not so memorable; Jon Evison just loves people and remembers, apparently, every single person he ever meets and he wants to buy us all drinks. Go read his new book. If you don't go to author events, you are missing out.

Also, I'm reading Chekhov again. Oh Anton, how I've missed you.


  1. So? What's the Ezra Pound Rule? Disquieted "mind" wants to know.

  2. I am so glad you asked, Count. The Ezra Pound Rule: No art ever grew by looking into the eyes of the public.

    I'm starting to become a Slavophile on the fiddle. Just thought you should know that. It's all fake composed music (Brahms and Gal and Monti and those folks) but at some point I'll start playing actual tunes. And then, oh then.