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Pubic Reading February 4!!!

January 19, 2010

For whatever reason, i.e. the desire to come off as fearless and confident and well-adjusted, I answered a call for readers e-mail last week, and the organizer of the event totally took it seriously and slotted me into the lineup. Four days later, I still have no idea what I’m going to read. I have somewhat committed to a “light/comic” tone, but that only rules out everything from my 2005-07 e-mail archives and about 80% of my manuscript. I was, and to an extent still am, weirded out by how serious my “book” (I can call it that as long as I make sure it’s always in self-deprecatory quotation marks) turned out. I’d assumed it would be all comedy and irreverence, like my MA theses and SSHRC application. I sent it to 20ish people a few months after I “finished” (see previous parenthesis) it, and a surprising number of the guinea pigs reported having become extremely emotional at certain places in the story. I was appalled, not at the emotion itself but that I had caused it – and with autobiographical material, no less. I had always thought of myself as a comedy machine. I would get all crazy-defensive and be like, “No, you don’t understand! It’s hilarious! Terrible things kept happening and I had worse and worse psychiatric problems! Get it?”

(I don’t mean this in a racist way, but is it possible for a sense of humour to be too black?)

Ideally I’d like to come off as mens sana in corpore nullo, but I’ve been going through all my old poems and prose fragments and that exercise is really forcing me to address the fact of my own undeniable weirdness. Almost everything I’ve written in the past ten years is way too full of classical imagery to be appreciated by the general public, and/or is rife with other types of imagery that I don’t want to elicit the envisionment of before my colleagues get to know me as a person, assuming they want to do that, and why wouldn’t they? I’m fucking delightful.

What’s truly demented is this: when I had to give a lecture or present at a conference I never gave a shit what anyone thought of me. I knew I could write. The old boys scared me not in the least; I liked most of them. And yet now I’m fretting like a neurotic spinster before a first date over having to spend ten minutes reading to an open-minded and receptive jury of my peers in a low-stakes, supportive atmosphere in which no Pompous Pats or Judgmental Judys will raise their hands and ask me precisely how the material I just read relates to their area of specialization, or why I didn’t discuss the following eight topics in more detail during my seven-page presentation. And furthermore, none of the classmates in the audience will be secretly looking down on me because I still have six more comps to finish and I can’t read German without a dictionary or Thucydidean Greek with one and despite being allegedly a writer and a woman I have virtually no interest in literary theory or women in antiquity, unless and until I’m looking for something to rant about. I know all this, and I know sleep is going to be lost over the February 4 situation irregardless.

Alia iacta est, anyway. My first non-academic public reading. I’ll pull it together somehow; necessity is the best incentive. I only have to fill ten minutes, and somewhere in my computer or in my brain there must be a piece that won’t cause major discomfort to the room full of total strangers. And on a very positive note, the event will be happening before I turn 30, which is just fantastic, because I’ll be able to have things like “Kate began her literary career in her twenties” on back jackets and in author biographies. Nunc est scribendum

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