I slept in the dorm and then
21 June, Friday
Awkwardness, then no awkwardness.
I got up and went to register at eight, where I discovered that the conference people didn't have my name down. They had apparently had some online form problems right around the same time I had registered. Well, that was great. They let me go ahead and pay for the conference and do it and everything, but it was still an extremely discouraging beginning. I went outside and walked around while they were trying to find me a nametag. Are we downhearted? No. Oh, ha. And I couldn't even have any coffee with which to buoy myself up, having no nametag with which to get into the cafeteria.
But things were reasonably straightened out, and I went into Steel Recital Hall(so apparently it was the music building) to wait for the speeches to commence.
It was a strange day, and one over the course of which I realized I needed to get copies of all the LMM journals that are currently out. The whole "life writing" thing was dominant, being the theme of the conference, but handled in a strange way. I mean, there has been the whole cult of personality thing with various writers: people like Sylvia Plath, the Beat generation, the Romantics. Everyone knows all these facts about various writers' lives; however, it is problematic to read their works apart from their lives. You aren't going to be able to unlearn Sylvia Plath's life if you already know it; a reader who does know her life will probably interpret her work differently than a reader who does not know anything about her. In fact, it may be difficult to get a full reading of a given poem without some biographical knowledge. This is. Well. It is difficult at any rate.
This spilled over in any number of directions here. Most if not all of the academics present were gung-ho on using LMM's journals, a problematic resource at best (which they did acknowledge, fortunately), to interpret or "find keys to" her fictional works. See, the thing here is that LMM intended her journals for publication, but we don't know exactly when she formed this intent. So we don't know how or when this thought colored her original writing of the journal. Second, in preparation for publication at some future point, she began to type out her handwritten pages, editing them as well as adding pictures; who knows what she took out? I'm pretty sure the original journals are also available, maybe with all the manuscripts at Guelph, but her original writing was already problematic anyway. Third, LMM seems to have been constrained by her environment. This is not surprising; neither the late Victorian mindset of the time nor the household in which she grew up were the most nurturing of surroundings. So on top of all the problems of intention, we have the same cultural bias which every writer brings to the table.
So there was That large academic problem to deal with, plus the more general strain of trying to meet various people in an academic setting, and to look professional and impressive to the established scholars, all while thoroughly exhausted. This worked to an extent. I did find people to talk to, fortunately, but it was a bit problematic. For one thing, a couple of the women who seemed to like me, and whom I liked inasmuch as I knew them, constantly whispered in the audience. It was really rude, but the worst thing was that they also tried to talk to me during presentations. So I ended up looking rude as well, even though I was doing my best to discourage them. Great, that's just the impression I was looking to make.
But after sessions ended I took several deep breaths and went downtown to meet some entirely different people at Cedar's. I was marginally nervous, but that was ok.
So, this whole meeting noders business? It's a very good idea. I've met a bunch of people previously, at the Columbus Starliner Diner brunch last spring, and at Natchlucid's second Iowa gathering, but so far I think this was the best meet I've been to. And it wasn't even technically a meet!
I came in and met Cletus and Luquid, and we were all pretty instantly at ease. Yay zero awkwardness! This seems to be characteristic of noder peoples meeting for the first time. It's so nice.
It was especially nice after having to be all awkward while trying to meet people and talk small talk at conference all day.
I had Lebanese stuff (shish tauk? I forget), this being a Lebanese restaurant, and both Cletus and Luquid had "Canadian cuisine". "Canadian cuisine" apparently consists of just about the same stuff as "American cuisine", with breaded chicken sandwiches, etc.; watch, everyone in North America has the same commercial food supplier. That kind of takes the fun out of "local cuisine". On the other hand, I myself had way more than all the Lebanese food I could eat.
"Are you eating a chicken and mayonnaise sandwich?"
So we colonized the booth for a good two hours. I think the waitron chick got a little sick of us. Oh well. But we couldn't shut up for the entirety of dinner. This I find to be an excellent sign.
Cletus reminds me of a kid in my MFA program. Fortunately the resemblance is only physical. Same chin, similar facial structure, similar timbre of voice. I say "fortunately" because otherwise this kid in my program was the least sincere person I have ever met. He was just plastic at everyone. In contrast, Cletus is very interesting and good and not insincere at all. Luquid reminds me of someone too, but I still haven't placed that one.
Conversation ranged from accents and regional terminology to IT systems and island economy to the musical version of Evangeline to me spilling my guts entirely in regard to two or three complicated parts of my personal history. You know you are comfortable with people when you do That on the first meeting. Granted, I have a big mouth on certain topics anyway, but still. It was good. We were big geeks at each other, and even started to compete for greater paleness, and that was Fine with me.
When we were done, Cletus kidnapped my check. There was a pause in which we thought very similiar things, along the lines of "am I going to let him get away with this?" and "is she going to let me get away with this?" After a minute it became clear that yes, I was going to let him get away with it. Then I proceeded to forget to give him the mix cd I had brought. So THAT was equitable. Fortunately there is the possibility of actual mail.
After much dithering, I decided to ditch the night's conference stuff, which was the musical version of Anne of Green Gables. I had seen the musical version of Emily the last time, and that was just horrifying--brash and brightly colored and all wrong in tone--so I wasn't really concerned with missing comparable things. Anyway I wanted to hang out with people instead. We went up the street to see a parody film which we thought we were sneaking into but turned out to be public, and in transit ran into Cletus's gf and several other people (whose names have unfortunately flown entirely out of my head by this time) with whom we proceeded to watch this film.
The film itself was called "Picking Lucy's Brain" (I think?), and was about a zombie LMM and the island's whole weird tourist scene. It was interesting cultural commentary; you don't generally get zombie movies about the provincial government's need to control this particular aspect of the economy. And it was funded by an actual governmental arts grant! You certainly don't get much stuff like this in the US.
I feel like I noticed very different things about the film than other people, having been thinking about various LMM things at conference all day. For one, all the characters referred to LMM as "Lucy". This was particularly weird after a day of conference in which everyone referred to her by her middle name, "Maud": the name by which she was known to her close friends and relations. The whole calling the author by her preferred name business is bizarre anyway; people seem to be claiming LMM as their personal friend by use of her preferred name. Clearly, anyone who liked any of LMM's books would have been considered her friend! Clearly, although acquaintances and even some friends were referred to as "Miss X" or "Mrs. Y" in LMM's time, all the "kindred spirits" can just bypass this formality! Clearly, they know her inside and out! The serious academics tended to refer to her as just "Montgomery", thank god, but even they would use "Maud" at times. This can't be good for the whole "LMM is a serious writer" thing that they are trying so hard to endorse.
(Ok, yes, I am going to do language theory in grad school. I am going to do name theory. Yes. It is very clear to me.)
Right! So afterward we roamed across the street to a little cafe, in which we proceeded to hang out and drink or not drink coffee and chocolate milk. I was getting a little tired by this point, but not too tired to trade some E2 gossip and continue to comment on various people's various interesting lingual and cultural traits. For instance, Cletus used the phrase "half again as much" three times in one sentence, so we had to discuss that. Another instance: I stopped and looked before crossing the street (even though I live in Ann Arbor, town of people constantly wandering into the street without even seeming to realize there is a street there); in Charlottetown, no one stopped, as every single driver automatically stopped for us instead. Lots and lots of things like that. It was good.
Of course, then various people had to go, and we had to split up to go to sleep or work or what have you. So we said oddly prolonged, wistful goodbyes, to the unspoken tune of "But I just met you! You can't be halfway across a continent from me in three days!" And I got in my car and drove back to campus and called John.
Ok, if any of you go to PEI in the future, just let me say that these are the people with whom to hang out. Yes, go ahead and blush! I had a most excellent time and would be more than happy to come see people again.
The next day I did conference things again.