As a native New Englander and transplanted Virginian who just wrote a book about my family's strange religious history in Massachusetts, I spend a lot of time driving up and down the east coast. Enough time in fact that when the good folks at Powell's asked me to be a guest blogger for a week, odds were I would find myself on the road for some portion of it.
So here I am. After finishing up the Vows book tour last week in Boston, I decided to stick around for a few days to attend a conference on narrative journalism. It was held over the weekend in an absurdly large convention center on the edge of the city. The place felt like an evacuated airport (huge windows, empty hallways), and the assembled journalists seemed always to be either rushing from one room to the next or waiting around with nothing to do. We passed idle moments trying to read each other's name tags without saying hello.
It turned out to be a pretty interesting event bookwise. Tom Wolfe ? dressed in required immaculate white ? gave a rambling keynote address that ranged from Philip Roth to Paris Hilton; low birth rates in France to NASCAR in Tennessee. He pronounced the novel all but dead, not because the artform had reached the end of its era but because current American fiction had been poisoned by the standing waters of MFA programs, where, he said, all manner of writing diseases were bred.
Ouchie. Though it was a gathering mostly of newspaper people, there were a few literary types in attendance and a fair amount of the laughter that followed such quips seemed a kind of self-flagellation. Wolfe went on to make a few more comments that caused the audience to bristle, and he must have felt it. At one point he said, "I feel like Nietzsche when he announced that God was dead. 'I didn't kill him;' Nietzsche said. 'I'm just delivering the news.'"
More soon on writers in the wild and the all-night ride down I-95. There's snow in the forecast and a long drive ahead.