Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Adriana Trigiani at Shepherd

I've been meaning to post about Trigiani's visit earlier this month for some time now, but it's been a crazy few weeks. Now, though, I've got about 20 minutes before my next class, and instead of working on my SAMLA paper, I will blog some more instead. Go priorities!

Trigiani's visit was amazing. She was funny, energetic, engaging, and even inspiring. In my years as a student and teacher at colleges and universities, I've seen quite a few visiting writers, but never one quite like Adriana. From the moment she arrived on campus, she was on--and we loved every bit of it.

Some pictures:

The Sigma Tau Delta volunteers who handed out programs and served as ushers at the Wednesday night event. They're a great group of students and I am enjoying being their sponsor.

The crowd beginning to gather for the Wednesday event. You can see Trigiani in the front row, talking to people. She was like that--she would start conversations with anyone, remember their names, and make them feel like they mattered. I can't tell you how many people she gave her email address to.

Dr. Shurbutt and Trigiani.

Desiree, one of my best ENG 204 students, getting her book signed by Adriana. The book signing events were great--Adriana talked to each person for a long time and wrote meaningful messages in each book. She and Desiree talked at length about what Desiree thought of Big Stone Gap, how she connected it to her own life, and writing in general.

Another awesome ENG 204 student, John, talking with Adriana. She loved her some John--and he seemed pretty smitten with her, too. John loved Big Stone Gap and even bought Big Cherry Holler so he could see what happens next. What a testament to Trigiani's power as a writer and a speaker! She makes fire-fighters in their mid-twenties want to read books that many have dismissed as "chick-lit."

Adriana with Laura and Kate, two Sigma Tau Delta members.

At the Thursday event, Russell Myers receives his 2008 West Virginia Fiction Writers Competition award from Adriana.

Finally, yours truly with Adriana, right before Dr. Shurbutt dragged her away so she could catch her plane.

"Emily Dickinson's Secret Lover"

Awesome title for an article, right? Here are some other choice parts:

"Yet the notion of Emily Dickinson making out in her living room is so foreign to our conception of her that her autumnal tryst with Judge Lord has never become part of the popular lore about her.

The discovery that Dickinson did not have to wait until her dotage to experience some of the pleasures of ordinary romantic companionship has so far sunk like a stone, too. A carefully argued scholarly article titled "Thinking Musically, Writing Expectantly: New Biographical Information About Emily Dickinson," published this summer in the staid New England Quarterly, has caused not a ripple.

The author, Carol Damon Andrews, is an independent scholar who has worked at the Worcester Art Museum in central Massachusetts. She told a reporter for the Amherst Bulletin that she was pursuing some family history among her Penniman ancestors when she stumbled across two intriguing entries in the diaries of Eliza Houghton Penniman, a music teacher who gave piano lessons in Amherst before settling in Worcester.

The first entry reads, in part: "I commenced teaching vocal & instrumental music when I was 16. My first pupils were Fanny Sellon daughter of Dr S. of Amherst … & lawyer Dickinson's daughter Emily." This was in 1839, when Emily Dickinson was 8 years old. Part of the understated charm of Andrews' article is that she gives as much attention to her discovery that Dickinson's musical education began six years earlier than had previously been supposed as she does to the bombshell that follows, in a later diary entry:

'In Amherst … I had a class in music: … Emily Dickinson, daughter of lawyer Dickinson, to whom Dr. George Gould of Worcester, was engaged when in college there. Lawyer Dickinson vetoed the whole affair, the Rev. George being a POOR student then, and poor Emily's heart was broken.'"

That Emily Dickinson wasn't just some weird old maid sitting in her room is a point I enjoy making to my students every semester--especially when we read a poem like "Wild Nights! Wild Nights!"--sent, in letter form, to her sister-in-law (!) who lived next door.

I look forward to reading all of Andrews' article, especially since I am very fond of the New England Quarterly, especially their December 2005 issue.

I can't even hold a football...

It's hands are too small and I can't grip a football. Just one of the reasons I'll never be able to make the big bucks in academia.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"My dogs greeting me after 14 months in Iraq"

Via Andrew Sullivan: watch this clip and just try not to get choked up. And God bless the men and women serving in the military--and the pets waiting for them to come home.

So long, Myrtle Fargate...

Sad news for All My Children fans. Some of you know I grew up watching this soap and am still a proud (albeit occasional) viewer. Myrtle was a great character and I'll miss seeing her.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Quick trip to Philadelphia...

A couple of Saturdays ago, David (who had driven up to WV on Friday night) joined me for a quick visit to Philly to see Vogel. We were only there about 24 hours, but had a blast.

David and Vogel at lunch at Solaris, a yummy restaurant right in Vogel's neighborhood.

After lunch, we headed to downtown Philly, specifically towards Independence Hall.

Independence Hall.

A really great shot of Vogel and David in front of Independence Hall. We didn't actually get to go in since they'd already given out all the tickets for the day, but there are tons of other fun (and free!) things to do in the immediate area, as this very helpful guide in the visitor center explained to us. We decided on two activities right away: seeing the Liberty Bell and visiting Franklin Court.

In line to see the Liberty Bell. Notice David playing with his iphone. He is so in love with that thing. He kept using it to look up where we were and give us background information. He was like a little kid with a toy he wanted us to covet. And it kind of worked...I want one.

The bell. I had seen it once before--way back in third grade, but I don't remember getting this close to it. And hey--I even got a shot of the crack. (Ha ha.)

Vogel wondering why I am taking so long to snap the picture. Sorry. But I posted this one in part because of dude in the back who is making a peace sign. What kind of adult does this in someone else's picture? It made me laugh, actually. I guess he couldn't help himself.

A much better shot.

Not sure what David is doing here. I think it's his impression of Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin holding a shotgun. (He had just watched the SNL clip of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler).

Now the non-silly shot.

After the Bell, we headed down to Franklin Court. On the way, we laughed at this sign. "Check out that funny looking lady!" I said, before my friends explained that it was supposed to be Ben Franklin in a chef's hat. Still...pretty lady-like, we thought.

"Life-size Jellybean Children and Butterflies"? Huh? Sounds terrifying to me. It was an exhibit here.

Soon we arrived at Franklin Court, where Ben Franklin's house used to stand and which today boasts an underground museum (tell me that "underground" doesn't make it sound a thousand times cooler!). Notice the white sign in this picture. It explains that Franklin would have walked through this little alleyway every day. I thought that was pretty awesome and asked Vogel and David to pretend they were Franklin walking through. Vogel, who is always happy to oblige my photo-shoot demands, did her best. David...not so much.

Here they are both next to the sign. Notice Vogel's arm. She still can't stop acting like Franklin walking home.

Franklin's house was torn down about 20 years after he died, but there are some very important markers of the structures that used to be there, like, for instance, his father-in-law's toilet.

Or Franklin's privy!

Inside the the underground (ohhh!) museum we saw lots of Franklin's inventions, including this one that impressed us the most: a chair with a built-in step ladder.

I also liked this one--a four-sided music stand so that a quartet could play.

After the room of inventions, we entered this huge space with dozens of phone and a wall of numbers. You could dial an extension and "talk" to a famous person who was influenced by Franklin in some way. It's a pretty cool way of illustrating just how influential Franklin was and is. We called Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, and Mark Twain, among others. Vogel loved the phones so much that it was hard to tear her away.

At the end of the museum there was a little theater showing a Franklin Film Festival--including Ben and Me, which I adored as a kid and would have loved to see again. But we were about 40 minutes away from the next show and David was getting hungry. He was also getting entirely too jealous of Franklin. "Man, how come I never invented anything?" he asked. So we moved on.

After a brief stop for a drink and a snack, we walked through a park where some well...interesting performance art was going on.

Now admittedly, we only stayed for a little while to listen to this guy sing about rivers (represented by the blue tarp behind him), so it could be that the show was very good. But just the part we saw left us trying not to laugh out loud (and getting dirty looks from a Ben Franklin impersonator nearby.) Let's just say he rhymed like Adam Sandler's "Cajun Man" and used works like "olfaction" and "putrification" as his end rhymes. You can read just a bit about him here.

After walking around a bit more, we headed back to Vogel's, crashed for a bit, and then had a lovely dinner here. The next day it was back to WV for me and NC for David. Still, it was a great little visit.

Friday, October 3, 2008

"Foreclosure Alley"

Via Andrew Sullivan: check out this video. Unbelievable. Honestly, so disturbing. It's like the people who lived in these houses just vanished. I can't imagine leaving so many things behind. The bit about spray-painting lawns green is almost surreal. Someone needs to write a poem or short story about that...