introducing readers to writers since 1995

May 03, 2005

Pages from My Social Diary

by Ron Hogan

  • First of all, I've been remiss in not mentioning this much earlier, but a little over a week ago I went down to Housing Works to hear Mitch Cullin talk about A Slight Trick of the Mind, his fabulous imagining of Sherlock Holmes as an old man. After his former writing teacher, Mary Gaitskill, chatted him up about what she loved about the novel, an audience member asked Cullin how he sees the novel fitting into the whole Holmesian fandom scene--i.e., what will the Irregulars (official or otherwise) make of it?--to which Cullin said that many fans "want Holmes to be flesh and blood," but reject certain re-imaginings of the character because "they don't want him to be human." (So then I asked him what he thought of the flurry of "literary" Holmes books, and he chalked it up to just one of those things; he was a little apprehensive when he first heard about Michael Chabon's The Final Solution, which also features Holmes in old age, but now he's looking forward to reading it.)

  • If you can't have a Joseph Mitchell book party at McSorley's, Shaffer City Oyster Bar's a pretty good substitute, especially when you're celebrating the reissue of Old Mr. Flood. I met up with some of the MacAdam/Cage crew--including one of their contemporary authors, Samantha Hunt, and though I was able to catch a glimpse of Eli Wallach, who had come to read a passage from the book, unfortunately I had to leave before he took the stand...

  • I could get to the New School to see the tail end of the Poetry Society of America's annual awards. Marie Ponsot accepted the Frost Medal with a delightful speech about the roots of poetry in baby talk, then read a selection of works by other poets--from Djuna Barnes to Katherine Jaeger--before closing with two of her own poems. When I got out to the reception area, I found that the evening's other winners included Anne Winters, Lyn Hejinian, and Karen An-hwei Lee. Then I ran into the Unterberg Poetry Center director, David Yezzi, just as Paul Auster was walking away from him, then his wife caught up with us and introduced me to Molly Peacock...and when I went to go get a piece of cake, I ended up chatting with Tree Swenson of the Academy of American Poets--she didn't give up any hints about the site's impending relaunch, but I'm guessing it'll be very cool.

  • And then Sunday night it was another awards show, as the Young Lions of the New York Public Library handed out their fifth annual prize for fiction by a writer under 35. I was fortunate to spy Elissa Schappell early on, so there'd be somebody I knew there, and she introduced me to Siri Hustvedt, who was acting as one of the judges, and then re-acquainted me with Jenny Offill, who I used to meet at my local indie bookshop when I lived in Brooklyn. Elissa and Jenny have an anthology coming out any day now from Doubleday, The Friend Who Got Away. The prize, as you may have seen on some of the other blogs, went to Andrew Sean Greer for The Confessions of Max Tivoli--I was rooting for Stephen Elliott's Happy Baby, but Oliver Platt did such a good job reading from the Greer that now I just want him to go record the whole book. (Other celebrity readers included Josh Lucas for Stephen, Griffin Dunne for Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Joan Allen for Aaron Gwyn, and Ethan Hawke for Marc Bojanowski.)

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