Thanks to my marvelous hosts at Gettysburg College. I read from The Privileges
in front of a capacity crowd; when I say "capacity," of course, I choose to ignore the fact that the students were all academically required to be there, but hey, it's a lonely life as a touring novelist and you have to take your buzz where you can get it. Undergraduates are always an unnerving audience, I feel: they are super-attentive and super-respectful but they don't react at all. When you're reading the same scene in public for the tenth time, and the lines that made the other nine audiences laugh earn only chilling silence this time... well, you start looking forward to the post-reading visit to that local bar they were telling you about, let's put it that way.
This was my third trip to Gettysburg, and as impressed and chastened as I always am by the sheer creative energy of the students (I went out for a pre-dinner reading with about a dozen of them and sat across from a young woman who majors in biology with a minor in creative writing and has been to every continent and described a recent family vacation in Antarctica), there's one feature of the visits that always stands out for me. The college employs a loose confederation of local retirees as drivers, to run various people-moving errands like, say, taking me back and forth to the train station, which is 40 miles away in Harrisburg. They tend to be garrulous characters. On my return trip to Harrisburg, I had a driver named Bob, who had professionalized his new gig by buying a pair of old-fashioned leather driving gloves. From Bob I learned a few things that will stay with me for a while: for instance, that Gettysburg was home, during World War II, to an Allied POW camp; that Bob himself is of German ancestry and once made a somewhat awkward trip to Germany to trace his own genealogical roots, which culminated in his sitting in the living room of a distant relative while she flipped through a scrapbook of young men wearing Nazi uniforms, pointing to each of them and saying, "Dead. Dead. Dead;" and that, in his rueful opinion, people in this country have forgotten all about 9/11 — an opinion that, as a New Yorker, I suppose I am ill-equipped to judge.
Anyway, here ends my week of virginal blogging. Thank you for reading, whoever you are, and thank you to Powell's for the license to ramble and vent.