Wednesday, October 05, 2005

New York Public Library not just for Ghostbusters

A week or so ago, I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion of fiction authors at the New York Public library. Not being from New York, my awareness of the library was that it was the first place that the Ghostbusters encountered a ghost and came up with the idea to trap one. Apparently it is known for more than that. Here are the famous lions, and a palm reader plying her trade. The library inspires everyone to read, some read books some read palms. The famous reading room was filled with students and researchers and sunlight on the day we were there. We also got to see a Gutenberg Bible but there was no photgraphy allowed in that room, so you will have to take my printed word for it.

The panel discussion was part of the New Yorker festival and had several authors on it discussing fiction. The most famous author on the panel was Stephen King. I took a blurry camera phone photo from a million miles away but you can see Stephen King in it. The other authors were, Martin Amis, Judy Budnitz, A. M. Homes, and George Saunders. The discussion was interesting but at these panels you always get questions from the audience that are in appropriate to the venue. "Help me write my book" questions, or "This statement is long and rambling and I think I am a big hotshot and I like to hear myself talk but I didn't ask a question" questions. The authors did sometimes call bullshit on the audience questions, but they also tried to answer the good questions. Stephen King had a hard time hearing any of the questions so he answered what he wanted, which was still pretty humorous. Listening to the authors and their discussions of fiction writing has forced me to look for books by the authors that I had not read before.

I think that when you have magazine editors interviewing authors talking about writing and so on, there is always the world-worm Oborous effect of biting one's own tail as the writing community reflects on itself and on the process of reflecting on itself and so on. The most interesting comment of the afternoon was that although none of them have come strictly true, the fictional stories theses authors have produced have presaged current events as our own reality changes faster and faster and becomes even more postmodern. The perfect example given was the story of the passengers of the Jet Blue flight watching themselves on TV circling the airport before they were going to try to land and potentially crash.

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