Browsing through the many post-AWP posts for something that does something that I don’t know what, maybe something worth mentioning, or something else, I found this up at Agni (via the Newpages blog): ‘AWP Chicago: A Gamer’s Notes’ by JS Tunotre. I read it and tried to think of how it applied to my AWP experience. I found myself resisting it, wanting to respond. Then I told myself I wasn’t going to post about AWP, especially not one of those ‘thank-you’ posts to everyone (which are fine and fun to read, but there are just so many of them, and I can only read so much about how weird it is to meet people in real life whom you’ve only known online). But I changed my mind today when I realized that I couldn’t focus on the student papers piled on my desk. So here goes:
Before you read on, recall that we’ve already talked a little bit about the ‘submissions game’ here, so maybe this AWP post will pick up a little bit where Mike Young left off?
And if you haven’t, please read Blake Butler’s BE AN OPEN NODE post for some more thoughts that sort of go with what I’m thinking here.
So, to the essay. Give it a quick read, then come back and let’s talk. Also, you should know that I’m reading/responding to JS Tunotre’s essay honestly. I’m aware of its satirical qualities, its humor, etc, but I think Tunotre is describing a common perception about AWP, publishing, writing, and so on that I want to treat as a serious argument, despite his framing it in gamer’s language. We can also discuss how serious Tunotre is about this issue in the comments.
Okay, enough delay. My first question after you’ve read the essay is this: does Tunotre speak for you?
I am speaking here for all of us who still cannot walk into a room, a literary arena, without immediately seeing it as a complexly graded hierarchy, a scarcely disguised Hobbesian jungle, tyrannized over not by teeth and claws, but by their verbal equivalents.
Probably not, unless you are a robot, in which case you are probably small and round and vacuuming up all of the crap after everyone leaves town.
Or you are insanely intelligent, live alone in a garrett that you never leave, and write very long books, in which case you have no experience with crowds anyhow.
But seriously, does Tunotre speak for you? I’m curious to hear from people who think of AWP this way (or any other social interaction for that matter).
The day of trolling tables and tables in a convention center is over. It was fun, but now the real fun begins. We started drinking at dinner. Now, it is late. Like, two in the morning. We are all in a suite, in Blake Butler’s suite. Blake has a suite because he is famous. The light is dim and yellowish. Sounds of delicate laughter and glasses tinkling with booze abound. I am sitting on a couch, the windows behind me, but I can feel Chicago glittering below. Jereme is next to me. Sitting there on the couch, next to each other, it no longer matters that I have an Amazonian, East German discus thrower vibe to me, because when I am sitting, it hides that aspect of me (as opposed to standing). Being next to Jereme is like being next to warmth. Being next to Jereme is like wanting to hold a baby bird in my hands and I’m afraid I won’t do it right, because it is so delicate. But I want to, I want to do it right, I feel I’ve never wanted anything so badly in all my life. I also am afraid he might get angry at me and that would crush me. But everything is good. He is not angry. He has beautiful eyes. We are nicely drunk, not yet shit-faced and I haven’t blacked out yet. My right shoulder is touching Jereme’s left shoulder. I can smell him. He smells like cigars and whiskey and a man’s warmed skin. I have all this love flowing from me, from my chest, from where my heart is, toward Jereme. He lets me touch his beard. It is soft, the way longish beards are, not scratchy. It is thick and comforting. I stroke it with my hand. Then I lean in, and rub my cheek on his beard. This is what I am doing when Barry walks up to us, towering above us, interrupting our soft, kind moment.