November 12, 2007

Frequency North, November 8

This is the visiting writer series curated by Daniel Nester at the College of St. Rose in Albany. The readings are held in the library which easily makes for an over-flow crowd, although tonight's audience would be substantial by anyone's (except the Knickerbocker Arena's) standards. Not just students, but faculty, Deans, & community folk.

The reading paired 2 writers standing far apart on the writing spectrum. St. Rose faculty member, Hollis Seaman introduced Nalini Jones who had once been her student. Jones' first book, a collection of linked stories, What You Call Winter was published this year by Knopf. She read "bits & pieces" from the stories which are set in an Indian/Catholic suburb of Bombay, told in a straight-forward, direct style, basically a classic story-telling experience.

When Wayne Koestenbaum got up to read he complimented Jones for her "unmannered" stories. And then proceeded to demonstrate what one would mean by "mannered" writing. His most recent book is Hotel Theory in which a meditative essay on hotel life is printed alongside a novel about Liberace & Lana Turner. If that doesn't say "mannered" I don't know what does. My impression from the segments he read was, per my notes, "clever, self-conciously humorous intellectualisms." He also read some poems in essentially the same mindset. For example, his poem "Best-Selling Jewish Porn Films" is a list of porn film titles using the word "Jewish" or "Jew" so you really get the joke from the title & the poem is a lot of unnecessary cleverness.

Why do I always writer more about the stuff that annoys me than the stuff I like? I guess for the same reason there are more anguished love poems than happy ones.